Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre, 26-year-old artist and active feminist, was slain on January 18 in the streets of Juárez, Mexico. A week later protesters gathered in the streets to demand justice for her death and bring new attention to Ciudad Juárez’s femicide epidemic that has been allowed to persist for nearly 30 years.
Marching from the center of Juárez to the top of the international bridge connecting to El Paso, Texas women wearing ski masks chanted “Not one more” in a demonstration against gender-based violence. The movement closed the Downtown Paso del Norte international bridge and halted travel into the US, demanding the attention of the mayor and other leaders. The direct attack on women in this bustling city is not new; a spike in the 1990’s gained international attention as death tolls of working factory women, labeled “maquiladoras” reached all time highs. Despite this attention the femicide carried on and Ciudad Juárez ended 2019 with a death toll of nearly 1,500 killings. Most of these attacks on women never get solved and their deaths are viewed as just mere numbers. With an average of four deaths per day, the slaying of women is seen as the daily norm.
Ciudad Juárez has also seen a rise in attacks against activism. Isabel was involved with social justice issues being a member of Mesa de Mujeres and Hijas de su Maquilera Madre, both vocal feminist organizations. The reasons behind Cabanillas’s killing are unclear, but she would not be the first targeted for her social activism. Others who have spoken out about the femicide in Juárez have fled for their safety and others still have been killed and mutilated for these actions.
A pink cross was placed at the scene of her death to represent the fight against femicide. The wall behind the place where her body was found has been covered in murals remembering Isabel and her mission. Messages like “”Pinto por las que ya no están (I paint for those that are no longer here)” are written on the wall in her memory.
Sources: NPR 1/26/2020; NBC News 1/24/2020; Mexico News Daily 1/27/2020; El Paso Times 1/26/2020