CALI, Colombia — At a lodge in Cali, a serious metropolis close to Colombia’s Pacific Coast, a whole lot of individuals packed a ballroom for the girl on the heart of the stage.
Together with her hand on her coronary heart and a little bit gold cross round her neck, Marelen Castillo, a vice-presidential candidate who till just lately was nearly unknown, defined as soon as once more that she was working for workplace to assist “so many ladies in Colombia who wouldn’t have alternatives.”
Just a few months in the past, Dr. Castillo, 53, had been a prime director of a non-public Catholic college in Bogotá, the capital. Now she is the working mate of the anti-establishment politician and businessman who unexpectedly clinched second place within the first spherical of the nation’s most consequential election in a long time.
On Sunday, Colombians will vote within the runoff, selecting between that candidate, Rodolfo Hernández, and Gustavo Petro, a longtime senator making a bid to be the primary leftist president within the nation’s historical past.
Regardless of the consequence, the nation is assured its first Afro-Colombian lady vice chairman: both Dr. Castillo, an educator and spiritual conservative, or Francia Márquez, an environmental and social justice activist.
The 2 ladies have starkly totally different approaches to a number of the nation’s most urgent issues: inequality, unemployment and the standard of the general public schooling system.
Whereas Ms. Márquez has made social justice and inclusion the core of her platform — talking about race and sophistication in a method hardly ever mentioned in public circles — Dr. Castillo has saved her message centered on bettering public schooling and growing financial alternatives, significantly for ladies.
In an interview between marketing campaign occasions in Cali, Dr. Castillo described rising up in a mixed-race household that blended harmoniously, with relations congregating for each birthday, vacation and first communion. Her father is white and her mom is Black. However race, she mentioned, was not mentioned.
“Possibly as a result of we grew up in that, we weren’t very a lot inclined to really feel that method” about race, she mentioned. “Due to the household togetherness.”
The tenets of Dr. Castillo’s platform embody elevating salaries of public schoolteachers, investing in athletic and humanities schooling and incorporating greatest practices from universities in different nations. Mr. Hernández and Dr. Castillo have mentioned that, if elected, she will even turn out to be the minister of schooling.
She has additionally mentioned that she would create a working group to revise greater schooling legal guidelines in Colombia. She didn’t specify what modifications she would make, however mentioned that any revision can be a participatory course of.
Sandra Carrasquilla, 52, a Castillo supporter in Cali, just lately began volunteering for Mr. Hernández after engaged on the marketing campaign of the right-wing senator María Fernanda Cabal. She was drawn to the ticket largely by Dr. Castillo’s “spectacular” resume, heat, and message of unity.
“She is a lady who has devoted herself to schooling and has a beautiful charisma,” mentioned Ms. Carrasquilla, who works for a well being meals distributor. “That’s why Marelen received me hooked.”
Dr. Castillo grew up in Cali, the oldest of 5 daughters in a tight-knit, middle-class Catholic household.
Schooling was paramount of their family. Her father, a former schoolteacher, walked the women to highschool day-after-day and taught them to learn.
“My dad used to say, ‘I educate them as a result of I don’t need them to should rely upon somebody afterward,’” mentioned Marelen’s sister Milene Castillo, a biochemist.
Dr. Castillo took this to coronary heart, securing scholarships and incomes 4 levels, together with a Ph.D. in schooling. Throughout that point, she additionally labored as a public highschool trainer, and later as vice chancellor of a Catholic college in Cali.
There, Dr. Castillo earned a fame as a talented administrator and “a supremely clever particular person,” mentioned Santiago Arboleda, a professor of Afro-Andean historical past on the Simón Bolívar Andean College in Quito, Ecuador, who taught in Cali for years.
Fourteen years in the past, she moved to Bogotá to work at Minute of God College Company, a Catholic college that caters to low-income college students in distant areas of the nation with little entry to greater schooling. She spearheaded the college’s digital and distance studying program.
Schooling has continued to hold Dr. Castillo as she finds herself within the heart of Colombian politics.
As voters put together to forged their ballots, the vastly totally different marketing campaign platforms of Dr. Castillo and Ms. Márquez mirror the cultural divide in Colombia of individuals demanding drastic social change on one facet and those that say such calls for create division when the nation wants unity.
The ladies are two of 5 Afro-Colombians who had been named as working mates to presidential contenders — a document in Colombia, the place prime politicians are principally white, usually educated overseas and linked to probably the most influential households.
For a lot of, seeing two Black ladies who’re so near the halls of energy recasts “the narratives of what’s the applicable place for an Afro-descendant lady,” mentioned Aurora Vergara, director of the Middle for Afrodiasporic Research at Icesi College in Cali.
But it surely has additionally raised questions of candidates who’ve tried to show racially various illustration whereas nonetheless avoiding a dialog about racism in Colombia.
On the marketing campaign path, Ms. Márquez has cracked open the nationwide dialog about race in a rustic the place the subject stays largely taboo. She attracts hundreds of devoted supporters to her speeches by which she calls on Colombians to handle systemic racism and sexism.
Against this, Dr. Castillo acknowledges the existence of racism and sexism in Colombia, however it isn’t a central a part of her message, in contrast to her leftist counterpart. She as a substitute emphasizes the thought of making extra alternatives for ladies.
“We have now to acknowledge that Colombia is a machista nation, and who provides us the chance? The boys,” Dr. Castillo advised The New York Occasions. “Now we now have to provide alternatives to different ladies.”
One of the vital widespread criticisms of Dr. Castillo is that she has no expertise in public workplace and would function second in command to one of many oldest presidents in Colombian historical past. If the 77-year-old is elected, Mr. Hernández will serve a four-year time period.
As they marketing campaign for workplace, he and Dr. Castillo couldn’t be extra totally different.
Mr. Hernández is brash, casual and unpredictable, and has made so many offensive statements that one native information outlet just lately compiled them in a digital catalog labeled “look how Rodolfo Hernández has offended you.”
Dr. Castillo by comparability is measured in her speeches, hardly ever straying from the get together line. She has defended Mr. Hernández from accusations of misogyny after he advised an interviewer “the best can be for ladies to dedicate themselves to elevating kids.”
However, internally, there have been disagreements.
In an effort to distance himself from the present conservative authorities, which faces dismal approval scores, Mr. Hernández has just lately launched a collection of progressive coverage stances, together with saying that his authorities would help a lady’s proper to abortion.
Ángel Beccassino, an adviser to the Hernández marketing campaign, mentioned Mr. Hernández and Dr. Castillo had disagreed on the problem, however that Dr. Castillo had ultimately settled on the place that “each lady has the best to resolve for herself.”
Within the interview, Dr. Castillo mentioned that she was personally towards abortion as much as 24 weeks, however clarified an earlier assertion by which she had mentioned she would love the nation to re-examine a latest excessive courtroom determination that decriminalized the method as much as 24 weeks. “I wish to evaluate it. I’ve not mentioned that I’m going to evaluate it,” she mentioned. “My place is that I respect every lady’s determination.”
Visiting the neighborhood the place she grew up earlier this month for a marketing campaign occasion, not less than one particular person acknowledged Dr. Castillo: her cousin Iván Castillo, 49, who occurred to stroll by on a visit to the bakery. He was shocked, he mentioned, when he came upon she was getting concerned in politics, and much more shocked when Mr. Hernández moved on to the second spherical.
Like most of the township that features La Base, Mr. Castillo, a civil engineer, voted for Mr. Petro.
“Now with the household concerned, I don’t know,” he mentioned with amusing, of the subsequent election spherical.
“She is superb at her job as a trainer, an administrator,” he mentioned, shaking his head. “However she has nothing to do with politics.”
He added, “An individual like my cousin, to get into such a multitude. My God!”
Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting from Cali, Colombia.