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When She Heard Illegal Miners Were Coming To Her Community, This Afro-Colombian Activist Fought Back To Protect Her Land And Won

About 80 percent of the gold in Colombia is mined illegally, and it’s harming the South American country’s people and land. That’s why when unlawful miners started operations in La Toma, a Black community in southwestern Colombia, Francia Márquez fought back. This week, her efforts landed her a Goldman Environmental Prize.

In 2014, when Márquez heard illegal mining — which leads to deforestation, water contamination and, as a result of both, displacement — was approaching, she organized 80 women from her community to take a 10-day, 350-miles trek from the Cauca Mountains to Bogota. The demonstration caught the attention of the government, which agreed to speak with the women. After the protesters made their case, authorities ordered that backhoes and equipment be removed from the area. When miners disregarded the demands, the government destroyed their machinery.

“We, as a people, came to have land that were fought for by our ancestors,” Márquez, 36, said in a Goldman Environmental Prize video. “We have been in this territory as a Black community since 1636. I grew up along the shore of the Ovejas River – swimming, fishing, mining. The river was everything to me. … In the name of development, most of the rivers in this territory are poisoned with mercury and cyanide.”

The activist, who has been fighting for her community since she was 13 years old, studied law in an effort to tackle the issue legally.

“I got involved with the community to demand that we had a right as an Afro-descendent community to those ancestral lands and that they didn’t have a right to displace us from those lands,” she said, according to the Earth Island Journal.

Márquez is one of six awardees — five of them women — to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s foremost conservationist prize, which honors grassroots community leaders for their lifelong commitment to protecting the environment.

Read: Women In Mexico Are Marrying Trees — And It’s Actually Brilliant

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Up Next: Meet Katalina, The Colombian Funny Girl-Turned-Pop Singer You Need To Know

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Up Next: Meet Katalina, The Colombian Funny Girl-Turned-Pop Singer You Need To Know

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

Katalina is used to the spotlight. For years, the colombiana has cultivated an audience of millions on Instagram with her hilarious short videos about relationships and womanhood. But now, the social media influencer-turned-singer is using her mic to explore these themes.

Debuting her first song, “Sacude,” a carefree pop-urban dance jam, last November, the Miami-living entertainer followed up this month with the heartbreaking ballad “Adios” featuring Cuban-American singer JenCarlos Canela, showing her musical versatility.

“With me, there will definitely be both. This is something I think I have been very clear about,” Katalina, 27, told FIERCE. “I feel that music is more free now and you do not have to limit yourself to only one genre. I like challenges and I dislike routine, so you can always expect a mix.”

We chatted with the rising star about her lifelong love of singing, transitioning from social media influencer to music artist, saying goodbye to loved ones and what to expect from the beauty in the months that follow.

FIERCE: Most people who are familiar with Katalina know you as a social media influencer with hilarious videos, but last year you took the leap into music. Why?

Katalina: I have always liked to sing. I come from a very musical and talented family, but we always practiced it as a hobby. A year ago, I gave myself the opportunity to develop it professionally with my manager, Kito Sunshine, and I am totally grateful and in love with this. Music is what I love the most — it frees me.

FIERCE: Was this shift from social media influencer to singer strategic? Did you know you always wanted to sing and saw social media as an avenue to build your popularity and get you there or was this an unexpected but welcomed outcome?

Katalina: Since I was a little girl, I have known that I liked to sing and play the piano. From 9 to 11 years old, I sang in the choir of a church when I lived in Colombia, and for me it was something magical, so I’ve always known it. As far as social media, I entered by accident, but from the first day, I enjoyed the opportunity to reach so many people and show them my musical side as well. It was not a strategy. I did not upload many videos singing, but people motivated me more and more to try to develop music professionally, so I gave myself the opportunity, and, well, here we are.

FIERCE: But you’re not just a pretty girl with a following who is trying to use her fame to dabble in something she has no business doing. You are talented! Still, several social media influencers have attempted to break into music, some like Cardi B and Jenn Morel finding success, but others not so much, oftentimes not because they lack talent but rather because they’re not taken as seriously. What has this transition been like for you?

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Katalina: It is a bit difficult for people to see social influencers in another facet that they are not used to, but, in my case, I always showed them that musical side, so it was not totally a surprise. The same people asked me and the reception was very special. I hope to reach many people with my music.

FIERCE: As you stated, you have been passionate about singing and playing the piano since you were a child. What sort of music did you grow up listening to and how do you think it’s influenced your Latin pop sound today?

Katalina: I grew up listening to a lot of pop and ballads. My mom always listened to this music, so she did influence me a lot. I remember locking myself in my room and practicing these songs all the time. I still do this.

FIERCE: Colombian music is having a major global moment right now. What do you think you bring to the game that’s different and helps you stand out among the rest?

Katalina: Together with my work team we are creating our own seal. Our sounds are different and the vocal arrangements are unique to what we want to project. We are focused on the urban wave but keeping my romantic side.

FIERCE: I can see that for sure! You recently released “Adios,” a ballad featuring Cuban-American artist Jencarlos Canela about saying goodbye to an ex-love with the hope of returning to each other again in the end. This is very relatable because a lot of times during breakups there’s this hope that time away will bring you two back together. Sometimes it’s because the couple really is good for each other, but other times it’s just a matter of costumbre. How do you, Katalina, decipher between the two?

Katalina: Saying goodbye is always going to be difficult, either out of love or habit. I think that if you are with someone just out of habit and not because you love him, it is better to say goodbye definitely. “Adios,” to me, has another meaning. Beyond the circumstances for which you have had to say goodbye to your ex-partner, it is the goodbye that makes your heart hurt. It’s the memories of the shared moments that make you miss a person and want to have them again, that’s “Adios.”.

FIERCE: In the music video, the song took on new meaning. It wasn’t just about an ex but about losing someone you love to death and never being able to be with them again. Why did you all want to dedicate this song and video to those who lost their partners?

Katalina: These are very common situations in all of our lives. The message also has to do with those who have lost a loved one, not just their partner. In my case, I recently lost my grandmother suddenly, who was a mother to me, and, for this reason, I, and many others, can identify with this video.

FIERCE: I’m so sorry to hear that! And I think you’re right. The video really extends to loss outside of romantic relationships. We are in an era of collaborations, especially for Latin music, and in this song, your and Jencarlos’ voices blend very beautifully. Tell me, who are some of your other dream collaborations?

Katalina: I’ve always believed you find strength in unity, so working in a team, to me, is a very wise decision. I have a long list, but I’d want to start with artists like Natti Natasha, Karol G, Becky G, Ivy Queen, Cardi B — these are strong women and great examples of what it means to be an empowering woman. Also, J Balvin, Daddy Yankee and others. They are artists with careers worthy of admiration.

FIERCE: I know you’ve been working on a lot of music for this year. What can you tell us is in store for Katalina in 2019?

Katalina: There are incredible songs written by international composers. I will also have my debut as a songwriter in a song that I think people will really identify with.

FIERCE: Can we expect more ballads like “Adios” or more dance songs like “Sacude” or a mix of genres?

Katalina: With me, there will definitely be both. This is something I think I have been very clear about. I feel that music is more free now and you do not have to limit yourself to only one genre. I like challenges and I dislike routine, so you can always expect a mix.

FIERCE: You are so young, at the start of your career, what do you hope people can say about Katalina in 10 to 15 years?

Katalina: My dream is to become an icon in music worldwide. I would love for people to say that I inspired them to fulfill their dreams, that I helped empower other women, that my life has been a great example of triumph. In 10 to 15 years, with the help of God, I will leave my mark throughout the planet.

Watch Katalina’s latest single, “Adios,” below:

Read: Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

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You Can Thank Machismo For Our Dying Planet, Here’s Why

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You Can Thank Machismo For Our Dying Planet, Here’s Why

Machismo isn’t just bad for society — apparently, it’s also hurting our planet.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, environmentally-friendly practices like recycling and using reusable canvas bags are considered “feminine,” so men aren’t that interested in doing it even if that means ruining our earth.

In their research, which included conducting various experiments, the authors of the study found that people who are green are thought to be more feminine.

One survey asked participants to describe a shopper with masculine, feminine and gender-neutral terms based on their shopping behaviors, like carrying either a plastic bag or a reusable canvas bag. On average, men and women saw consumers who engaged in green shopping practices as more feminine than those who did not.

Even more, the study found that men will intentionally avoid green products and practices if their gender identity is questioned.

“[Men] might be more attuned to this and try to make sure that they are projecting their masculine identity,” Mathew Isaac, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor at the Albers School of Business at Seattle University, told Broadly.

According to his research, men are more likely to adopt green behaviors when they consider them “masculine.”

When branding for green practices refer to it as doing it “like a man” or if logos for green products are visually darker and bolder, they are more inclined to purchase it or get behind it. For example, in one survey, researchers learned that men were more likely to donate to a nonprofit called Wilderness Rangers, which had a howling wolf as its logo, than an organization called Friends of Nature, which had a green and light tan logo.

“These findings identify masculine branding as a managerially-relevant boundary condition and complement prior research in suggesting that perhaps men would be more willing to make environmentally-friendly choices if the feminine association attached to green products and actions was altered,” the researchers write.

While the study could help green brands better market to men, it spotlights an unceasing problem: even as women advance in the workplace, academia and politics, even as gender roles begin to shift at home, even as we have become more financially independent, women are still considered inferior to men, so much so that associating themselves with something feminine, even if it means creating a better future for themselves and their offspring, feels dehumanizing for men.

“That says what’s feminine is bad, is lesser, is second class,” Carrie Preston, associate professor of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Boston University, told the Washington Post about the study’s results.

She continued: “Although men’s and women’s roles have changed significantly, masculinity hasn’t changed as much.”

Read: Here’s How You Can Easily Be More Green And Save Big

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