Former Senator, Vice Presidential Candidate and anti-corruption campaigner Claudia López became the first woman – and first openly LGBT person - to win election as mayor of Bogotá, Colombia in a vote held on Oct. 26. She becomes the first openly LGBT person to lead a major Latin American city.
The 49 year old López, representing the Green Party Polo Democrático a leftist party, won with 35% of the vote, taking a record 1,108,540 votes. Her closest competitor was center-right candidate Carlos Fernando Galán with just over 32% of the vote.
Gaining national attention as a journalist for shedding light on one of the greatest political corruption scandals to rock the country in modern times, the Parapolitica scandal, López has been an outspoken critic of right-wing former president Álvaro Uribe. She later served in the Senate, was the vice-presidential running mate for Green Party candidate Sergio Fajardo in 2018, and later that same year launched a countrywide anti-corruption referendum that fell short by under 500,000 votes.
López grew up in a humble household in working-class neighborhoods of Bogotá, one of seven children. Despite her less than privileged background, López earned degrees from the Universidad Externado de Bogotá as well as from Columbia and Northwestern universities in the U.S.
The subject of sexual orientation appeared to be far from the minds of Bogotá voters, who made their choice on other issues such as public transportation, security, corruption and social mobility. López gained support for her position of opposing further construction of the TransMilenio bus rapid system while supporting the construction of not one but two metro lines.
At her campaign victory party, López was joined onstage by her partner, the senator Angéica Lozano, who she thanked her for “being the love of my life, and making me happy every day.”
Then, like any other politician, she kissed her. That touched many LGBT supporters in the crowd, but also shocked not a few who watched the mayor-elect’s speech on television.
The kiss immediately set off a firestorm of opinion, with one prominent female journalist asking why they had to offend evangelical Christian political parties and their voters with an “unnecessary kiss on the lips.”
That sparked a “BesoChallenge” with people from all walks of life posting their best smooches – some with their heterosexual partners, some even with their dogs - on social media. And when a city council member declared that from now on, the Andean city would fall “under the yoke of Sodom,” both Sodom and Gomorra trended in Bogotá on Twitter for several days.
Lopez’s election marks the latest triumph for the LGBT community in socially conservative Colombia. The country became one of the first countries in the hemisphere to recognize same-sex marriages in 2016, but civil unions had become legal in 2007.
López takes over from current mayor – and one-time mentor - Enrique Peñalosa on Jan. 1, 2020 and will serve a five-year term.