Addressing a group of approximately 20 attendees at Luce Hall on Monday afternoon, former Colombian Minister of Culture Paula Moreno extolled the power of storytelling in fostering human understanding.
Moreno, who was a former World Fellow, talked in conversation with Maria Jose Hierro, lecturer in Political Science. During the event, Moreno discussed her recently published memoir, “El Poder de lo Invisible: Memorias de Solidaridad, Humanidad y Resistencia” — “The Power of the Invisible: Memories of Solidarity, Humanity and Resistance” — which has not yet been published in English. The memoir discusses her upbringing as well as her life’s work in public service and urban development.
From May 2007 to August 2010, Moreno served as the eighth Colombian Minister of Culture under President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. She was the first Afro-Colombian woman appointed to a Colombian Cabinet position as well as the youngest to ever take the position.
“I deeply believe in the value of personal experience and reflection,” said Moreno, explaining why she penned her memoir.
In her memoir, Moreno talks about her experience being both a woman and an Afro-Colombian in Colombia. She started the conversation by pointing out how recognizing people’s cultural backgrounds can contribute to their visibility in society. To that end, Moreno said that she made sure to describe how family, women and culture influenced her life in her memoir.
The conversation then focused on Moreno’s time as Minister as well as her political convictions. At the event, Moreno talked about how she created a nongovernmental organization known as “Manos Visibles” after recognizing the lack of visibility experienced by underprivileged groups in Colombia.
“Its main task is to incubate a network of leaders that changes power relations in Colombia,” said Moreno. “I’ve been devoting myself over [these last] eight years to do that.”
Later, Moreno noted that despite the transnational solidarity among ethnic minorities across Latin America, structural racism still persists in Colombia. The fight for equality continues, Moreno added.
As one of the examples for why this fight is still necessary, Moreno brought up the murder of Marielle Franco, an Afro-Colombian politician and human rights activist who was assassinated in March earlier this year.
Near the end of the conversation, Moreno said that in writing the memoir, she learned a lot about herself as well as how many people share her experiences across the world.
“They start with me, but they end with themselves,” said Moreno, describing people’s reactions to her memoir.
Attendees interviewed by the News reacted positively to the conversation with Moreno.
Hector Hernandez ’19 described Moreno’s representation of Afro-Colombians and indigenous groups as moving.
Radha Sarkar GRD ’23 said that it was interesting to hear a person who occupied public office “speak from a different angle” 10 years after holding the job.
“You get a mix of the personal and the political … It’s not a political agenda, it’s not a manifesto, it’s not a platform,” Sarkar said.
Moreno was a member of the 2014 cohort of Yale World Fellows.
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