Amidst jubilant cheers from a roaring crowd, Claudia López proudly kissed her partner, Senator Angélica Lozano, after being confirmed as Bogotá’s first female mayor. In a country known for both its machismo culture and religious conservatism, López has become not only Bogotá’s first female mayor, but also the first openly gay candidate to be elected Mayor in all of Latin America.
“I’m aware that I’ve received the fruit of the labor and fights of many generations, of many women,” López said in her victory speech on October 27th. “They led the way for us to get here.”
The 49-year-old journalist-turned-politician is a leader of Colombia’s Green Alliance party and served as a former senator of Colombia. Winning with over 35 percent of the vote, López ran on a platform dedicated to fighting corruption and improving education and infrastructure in Bogotá. López has also spoken passionately about her goals to foster equality and combat racism and homophobia in Colombian society, challenging the ideologies of many right wing politicians.
“Colombia is a country that has advanced in many things but still it has got a lot of machismo, it’s a very conservative country,” López told CNN en Español in an interview. “Colombia is the only country in which the same political families from the 20th Century are still governing in the 21st Century.” López’s win marks a historic shift from Colombia’s political elite to more liberal representatives that honor the interests of the public.
López was raised by her mother in a working-class neighborhood of Bogotá. She first got involved in politics in 1989, following a mass student movement in response to the assassination of former Colombian President Luis Carlos Galán. Afterwards, López got involved in a group known as the ‘Seventh Ballot’ movement, which is credited with the formation of a ‘Constituent National Assembly in 1990 to reform Colombia’s constitution. From there, López’s political career would continue to blossom as she became a Colombian senator and in 2018 a Vice Presidential nominee.
For many, the role of Mayor in Bogotá is considered the second most important position in the country after President. This historical and monumental win for López has not only shattered the glass ceiling for women but also for Colombia’s LGBTQ+ community.
“For many, López’s election represents change in Bogota, where inequalities against women in Colombia and LGBTQ+ people are disturbingly common,” reports Victoria Stunt for Quartz. “For example, violence against the city’s women is still frequent—between 2016 and 2019, there were more than 75,000 cases of physical and sexual violence against women alone. According to a recent report, 542 LGBTQ+ people have been murdered in Colombia since 2014.”
Colombia is reported to have the 10th highest femicide rate in the world, according to a report by ABColombia. Women and the LGBTQ+ community in Colombia have had little trust in their government, often turning towards grassroots organizations to fight widespread sexism and violence; but the realization is now dawning that long lasting change is better achieved from within the system. Claudia López’s win both points to a more progressive future for Colombia as well as optimism for future female candidates.
“I’m thrilled with the results in Bogotá,” Sara Fernández, a professor at the University of Antioquia in Medellín, tells Time. “A good mayorship by Claudia is a great presentation card for her to run for President later. It’s a big bet, and I think she has the bravery and the brains to aim for that.”