Location: Colombia
Profession: Farmer, Police Officer, Craftswomen, Midwife, and Community Counselor
Age: 66

Meet Marcelina Caicedo Sinesterra, affectionately known as Machela.

Machela and her family live near Guapi, Colombia, a small fishing community along the Pacific coast.

Born in 1952, Machela is the fifth of eleven children born to an Afro-Colombian farming family. Through the years, Machela has worked as a farmer, police officer, craftswomen, midwife, and community counselor. She also gave birth to thirteen children, of which five grew to adulthood. At the age of 65, Marchela was able to achieve one of her lifelong goals and finished her secondary education.

In addition to her professional and personal accomplishments, Machela has taken a leadership role with Aso Manos Negra, a feminist Afro-Colombian conservation group. Through Aso Manos Negra, Machela has been working with Cadasta to document the land and resource rights of Afro-Colombia communities in an effort to protect and promote the conservation of the region’s mangroves and piangüa (anadara tuberculosa).  

Machela’s work with Aso Manos Negra is backed by the 1993 Law 70 of Colombia (Ley de comunidades negras 70/1993) which recognized the right of black communities to collectively own and occupy their ancestral lands.

“To live in the Pacific area is something wonderful. The culture that we inherited from our ancestors is what allows us to enjoy this rich region, a region which is not only for us but for everyone who comes to live here. This is why as black women we are protecting the natural resources that we have, for not exhausting them so our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to use them.”