Today is International Women’s Day and here at the Colombia Travel Blog we want to pay homage some of the most remarkable Colombian women we know of.
Some are controversial, some are shining stars of music and Hollywood, some are actually made up by one of the greatest writers of all time, but all of them are remarkable in one way or the other.
Policarpa Salavarrieta, or La Pola
She’s the picture on the 10,000 note, the subject of a soap opera and a slang way to say beer, if that doesn’t show you how important La Pola is then nothing will. La Pola is a hero of Colombian independence, and her story is not only fascinating in itself, but in the course of Colombia’s rich history, too. One of the most important figures in South American history.
Often overlooked by history books, Manuela Saenz is another woman that plays an integral part in South America’s history. As the partner of Simon Bolivar, she played a crucial role in the independence effort and prevented Bolivar from being assassinated (after which she got the nickname ‘The Liberator of The Liberator). Although born in what is now Ecuador, Manuela Saenz is often considered by Colombians as an honorary Colombian.
Delia Zapata is one of the most important Colombian folklore researchers. Before her death in 2001, she would travel across Colombia collecting information about traditions, music, dance and the way of life. As an Afro-Colombian, she was especially interested in the Spanish/African influence in Colombian culture.
Colombia’s Olympic Women
Caterine Ibargüen, Mariana Pajon, Yuri Alvear, Ingrit Valencia: these 4 badass women all took home medals at Rio 2016, half of Colombia’s medal total. And that’s not to mention the 69 other female athletes who, together with these 4, made up 73 of Colombia’s 147 Olympic athletes. These women are showing the world the diversity and strength of Colombian women and the country couldn’t be prouder!
Tess Asplund identifies as Afro-Swedish, but she was born in Colombia so some of that general Colombian awesomeness clearly rubbed off on her: she was pictured in a now-iconic image in 2016 engaging in a silent and solo protest against neo-Nazis on a march in Sweden. Said Asplund: “If this picture of me can get more people to dare to show resistance, then it’s all good…the people must unite and show that it is not okay that racism is becoming normalised and that fascists are running around on our streets” – legend!
Gloria “Goyo” Martinez
The coolest member of one of Colombia’s coolest bands, Goyo was born in the small town of Condoto in the Pacific department of the Choco. She’s now a Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy winning musical artist, responsible for some of the biggest tunes to come out of Colombia in years! Add in her amazing talent and all-round strong female image and Goyo is certainly a cracking role model for all Colombian women out there…
Betancourt is a controversial figure, to say the least. She spent years captive under the control of the FARC after being captured. Some say she was brave to go, others say she was irresponsible. Upon her release the nation celebrated, but she subsequently attempted to sue the State of Colombia and therefore alienated herself from Colombians in general. Controversial, but one of the most famous Colombian women in the world.
Toto La Momposina
Toto La Momposina is a legend of Colombian music. Not only revered by Colombians, but by the entire music world (including Peter Gabriel), she largely performs cumbia songs but her arsenal includes many traditional, folkloric styles.
Recently voted one of the sexiest women in the world, Vergara is a proud Colombian (just check this interview with Letterman for proof) that found fame largely due to her starring role in Modern Family. She plays the Colombian (not too much of a stretch) wife of Jay, and is depicted as a strong, intelligent Latina – a nice change from the stereotypical roles usually afforded Colombians.
We couldn’t not include Shakira now, could we. Although we preferred her when she was a dark-haired and a little more of an enigma, she’s still vitally important thanks to her extensive charity work, as well as the fact she raises the profile of the country. Once Marcela was in Egypt speaking to a tour guide. The guy recognised Colombia thanks to Shakira – in fact the camel Marcela was riding was named after the very same pop princess!
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Women
Some of them are loosely based on historical characters, some of them are based loosely on the big man’s relatives and some of them are totally made up, but all of Garcia Marquez’s women are some of the most intersting characters in literary history. For many of us it’s our first introduction of women’s culture and matriarchy in Colombia.
Our favorites: The enigmatic Sierva María from Of Love and Other Demons, Mama Grande from Los Funerales de la Mama Grande and Others and the stubborn Fermina Daza from Love In the Time of Cholera.
Unfortunately we lost Fanny Mikey 4 years ago, but her legend lives on. An Argentinian-born Colombian actress, Fanny Mikey is one of the most important names in Latin American theatre, and the creator of the Bogota Iberoamericano Theatre Festival, which continues to this day to be the biggest theatre festival in the world.
You might not immediately think of Li Saumet, since you probably don’t know who she is. You’ve almost certainly heard her voice, however. As the brash, iconic singer of Bomba Estereo, Saumet is important because she and her band are showing the world’s masses just how diverse and exciting Colombia’s independent music scene is. Fuego, indeed.
Of course we had to include our mentor ;), because for us she embodies the passion that all Colombian women put in what they do; because we dont know any other woman so commited to promoting her beloved land abroad and because she’s the one that convinced us and inspired us to come, live here and follow her and her dream.