Activist, feminist, single mother and artist Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre”s body was found Saturday with bullet wounds on her chest in Ciudad Júarez, Chihuahua, Mexico sparking demonstrations calling for justice. Cabanillas went missing Friday night after leaving a bar to head home downtown on her bicycle leading friends and family to report her missing, according to Mexico News Daily. The 26-year-old was a member of the feminist collective Hijas de su Maquilera Madre and they’ve organized demonstrations calling for justice for her and the other women who’ve been killed in Mexico, with a national event organized for Jan. 25. The group described her as a young woman with “a lot of talent, ideas, and love to share,” El Paso Times reports.
There have been more than 40 murders in Juárez this year, according to Norte Digital news, while a search on Maria Salguero’s femicide database resulted in 75 announcements of the death of women this month in Mexico. The outrage in the wake of Cabanillas’s death led activists to take to the streets of downtown Júarez, condemning the violence women face in Mexico. Activists and mourners posted on social media using #JusticiaParaIsabel and #NiUnaMenos, the hashtag used throughout Latin America to campaign against violence toward women.
— Antonio Rodríguez (@rodriguezmonos) January 21, 2020
Para Javier Corral, gobernador de Chihuahua, el número de feminicidios en el estado ha ido a la baja y los datos "ya no son tan relevantes como lo eran antes".
— Toño Badillo (@soyelbadi) January 20, 2020
Cabanillas’s death is just one example of the systemic and historical violence in the area that locals say has been normalized, blaming the government for their lack of action. “They have not done anything for Ciudad Juarez, at all, it is only a matter of going to the city and it feels sad, it feels a tense and sad environment, it is ugly to live in Ciudad Juarez, the only good thing about Juarez was people like Isabel Cabanillas, who resist, who fight and who try to change the situation,” Melisa Alpizar, Cabanillas’s best friend, shared with Mexican feminist website, Luchadoras. According to El Heraldo de Juárez, her case is not being investigated as a femicide since she reportedly was involved in an altercation at the bar before she went missing, leaving activists enraged and promising to fight for justice on her behalf.
On her Instagram account, Cabanilla shared her artwork which included denim jackets and other articles of clothing with handpainted images, as well as, artistic renditions of pop icons including Frida Kahlo, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and Selena. One of her last posts included an image of a Mexican woman in the famous Rosie the Riveter pose.
“Isabel was a friend… she made time to go to the movies, eat and laugh with you, look you in the eyes, she accompanied you, she drank a beer with you. She was devoted to her son. She was an artist, designer, painted clothes, that’s how she made her living, she made murals,” Alpizar said. In the face of the staggering statistics and the unending violence women in Ciudad Júarez face, it’s not only important to say her name, but it’s also worth remembering they are more than any identifier. These women had families, friends, passions and goals and their lives were cut short in senseless acts of violence simply because they took up space as women in a city that remains hostile for mujeres either by violence or inaction in the fight against it.