At an event on Serrana Cay in the San Andrés archipelago attended by representatives from the Colombian Navy and local fishermen, last Saturday, Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva Durán swore in Colombia’s new Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Taylor Jay. Leyva assured that from now on, Colombia will become more visible in the Caribbean, saying all people residing in the Caribbean “must be protagonists of the new relationships that we want to develop with the sister countries of the basin, he indicated.”
The Colombian Caribbean has historically suffered underinvestment and political neglect, especially when it comes to education. This trend is reversing to some extent, as Colombia both becomes more democratic, and focuses on the lucrative prospects of the tourism industry.
“From this Archipelago I invite the Colombian people to direct their gaze towards our maritime spaces and towards the rights of the Caribbean communities settled in a fundamental territory for their development. This Archipelago means peace, unity and sovereignty”, highlighted the head of the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and emphasized that the communities, their practices and rights are inherent to jus cogens as a universal principle and that their protection and guarantee are not the prerogative of the State or any institution, they are a universal mandate: “This government undertakes to defend that beginning,” said Leyva. “The great Caribbean is inserted today as a fundamental part of Colombian foreign policy.”
Taylor’s resumé says she was born in 1966 on the small English-speaking island of Providencia, and studied marine biology at the Universidad del Valle in Cali before earning a masters degree in marine environmental protection from the University of Wales. She has had a career in the public sector from the local sustainable development agency (Coralina) to the Ministry of The Environment, and most recently serving as part of Colombia’s team litigating its territorial case against Nicaragua before the International Court of Justice.
“I understand that my appointment is not only a recognition of the women of our country in all its diversities and regions, but also of the Raizal community as a whole. I thank President Petro and Foreign Minister Leyva for this vote of confidence to promote, from this vice-ministry, a transforming foreign policy on the different issues of interest to our country. The reintegration strategy with the Caribbean using the Raizal community of the Archipelago as a center is a high priority and I will work on it with great dedication,” said Taylor.
“With the same commitment, recognizing the important advances that our government has made to achieve gender equity and equality, our task is to continue developing the road map for the construction of our feminist foreign policy. This is an institutional policy and a commitment of the Government of Change. We are assisted by the certainty that Total Peace extends beyond our borders and that is why my commitment will be to continue strengthening our multilateral relations, contributing from our experience as a laboratory for peace and sustainable development derived from the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve to the rest of the world.”
The archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia, nominally under Spanish control, began to be settled by British islanders from Bermuda and other islands in the 17th century, and like the rest of the Caribbean, imported African slaves. In the 18th century, Spain went to reassert sovereignty over the islands, and in 1786, all loyal English subjects were ordered to leave. Former slaves who accepted Spanish sovereignty were allowed to stay and keep both English and their mostly Protestant religion. To this day, Raizales, as their descendants are known, still speak a Caribbean dialect of English at home and the islands are religiously pluralistic with everything from a large mosque to a Baptist church imported piece by piece from Mississippi in the USA.