Can the white tracksuit of Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez put a country on edge? | Fashion | S Fashion THE COUNTRY

A white tracksuit has shocked Colombia. This is the outfit that Vice President Francia Márquez chose to meet with the Colombian consul at his residence in Cairo, Egypt, in the prelude to the participation that politics will make in COP27, where he will lead a conference on climate change and racial justice. Seeing this woman from the Colombian Pacific who has historically reached the second most important position in the country dressed in a sweatshirt and meeting with diplomats and politicians, many images come to mind.

There are, of course, the evocations of Evo Morales and alpaca wool sweater that he chose for his first tour of Europe as president of Bolivia and that defied all the canons of elegance when he was photographed -without a shirt, or tie, only with his jacket-, together with King Juan Carlos, of Spain. Images also come to mind of Hillary Clinton who was showered with criticism and rejection when, as secretary of state during the Obama administration, she dared to break expectations and go out with her hair uncombed and barely up with a ponytail behind. Despite the responsibilities he was assuming then, the unkempt hair questioned his suitability for the position. More recently, the stylistic audacity of Francia Márquez seems to revive the vilifications from which not even French President Emmanuel Macron was spared, who raised blisters when on a holiday and with a few days’ beard, wanted to go out with a sweatshirt before the cameras to imply that international politics was so turbulent that there was no time for clothing gadgets. The election of Francia Márquez could also refer us to other leaders of the Latin American left such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, who went out in sneakers and tracksuits so many times that they turned the look into the most dignified etiquette to attend state meetings.

But the reading that has unleashed Francia Márquez’s tracksuit and that has raised a heated controversy in Colombia seems to go through other more thorny territories than mere challenges to the elegant and rigid formalisms of politics. One of the first and most questionable relationships that the outfit has aroused has to do with the prejudices associated with social class, which have seen the sweatshirt as a garment belonging to the most oppressed classes. “The reviews worryingly reveal what a sweatshirt is associated with in Colombia. They associate it with domestic work, popular sectors and care work. What underlies that is a racist label about who provides those services in this country. There is a network of race and class that is very strongly mixed in the figure of Francia Márquez”, explains academic Edward Salazar, author of the book Fashion Studies in Colombia.

Francia Márquez was born in the department of Cauca, in an area in the south of the country historically forgotten by the state. She is a simple woman, who became the leader of her community to fight mining that undermines the security of its territory. She was a domestic worker and also studied law to be able to take her struggles to other places of political representation. Her voice became so powerful that she received the Goldman Prize, a kind of Nobel Prize in environmental issues and has been one of the most voted women in the political history of Colombia, and yet, a white sweatshirt makes her akin, according to her detractors. in networks, more directly with worthy domestic jobs than with those of politics. “When you are a black woman coming to these places of decision-making and power, it seems that you cannot relax, go informal or comfortable, because what is expected is that you demonstrate, through everything that is symbolic, that you are making a double effort, because you are in a place that should not be occupied by you”, says, for her part, Carolina Rodrígez, Colombian writer, creator of the podcast Maroon Manifesto, where he addresses issues of raciality and resistance. “This scandal speaks volumes about systemic racism in the country, about the prejudices against women in politics and, above all, about black women in politics, who always have to appear industrious, hard-working, elegant, sophisticated.”

In reality, with her decision to be comfortable, Francia Márquez has raised a real affront to that idea of ​​“respectability”, which Georgetown University professor Nadia E. Brown, in her book ‘Sister Style’ It has been proposed as a “survival” strategy for people of African descent. Since the 1960s, when the Afro-American community in the United States, led by Martin Luther King, led all the movements for the defense of their rights, women and men began to wear elegant suits: they always wore ties and they A-line skirts, heels, and gloves, because it wasn’t the same for a cop to hit someone in jeans as someone in a suit.

Thus, the image of Márquez photographed in a tracksuit, in the consul’s residence, at the gates of one of the great political summits of the moment, is really a declaration of not fear, of deserving, to get away from the suits that have protected their community and to join perhaps one of the most stigmatized suits for people of African descent. Because yes, it seems impossible to ignore the political value of having chosen, just for her first major international appearance, a hoodie, which has been responsible for hundreds of young Afro-descendants have been unfairly stigmatized by the police as potential criminals. “This controversy also shows the folklorization of France itself. She is always expected to be dressed in African fabrics and fabrics from the Pacific and if she goes outside of that ethnic dress code she is not heeding the “this is what black women in power look like” discourse. She breaks stereotypes and shows on many levels that black women have multiple dimensions and are complex through their clothes, their attitudes, through everything that makes her up as a human being and as a political figure”, adds Carolina Rodrígez .

“Each person is free to find their place. France, for example, doesn’t wear a turban, and most Pacific women do, but they do wear their Afro-curly hair naturally or in braids. There are black people who do not want to have a racially schematized identity and nothing happens. If she puts on a dress without signs of identity, she continues to be what she is, a black woman, a leader, a voice of the territory in the body of a woman”, says Jenny de la Torre Córdoba, a doctor in gender studies and decisive woman in processes of ethnic recognition in the Colombian constitution of 1991. The sweatshirt of the Colombian vice president is nothing more than a sweatshirt, which she surely wore after an exhausting trip to Egypt with no other intention than to feel comfortable and, although it seems a challenging action , she and all political women should increasingly have full autonomy over what they do with their bodies and their clothes.

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Can the white tracksuit of Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez put a country on edge? | Fashion | S Fashion THE COUNTRY