When Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre, a Mexican artist, clothing designer, and women’s rights activist didn’t make it home Saturday, her friends were worried; they reported her as missing on social media. Early the next morning, The El Paso Times reports, she was found dead. Cabanillas was shot next to her bicycle in downtown Juárez, Mexico, just across the US-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas.
On Sunday, demonstrators, including activists, artists, and women’s rights advocates from across the city descended on the city’s Benito Juárez Monument, calling for justice for Cabanillas. Hijas de su Maquilera Madre (Daughters of Maquila Worker Mothers), an artist collective Cabanillas was a member of, told the El Paso Times that she had “a lot of talent, ideas and love to share.”
The police haven’t disclosed a motive, and as of the El Paso Times’s reporting on Monday, no arrests made in connection with the killing. It’s a terrifyingly common story for Juárez, which has been plagued with femicides for decades. As the Washington Post reported in 2017, “hundreds of Mexican women [have] disappeared or been killed in the border town since the early 1990s.”
In 2015, Ana Güezmes, a United Nations official, told Al Jazeera that “Femicides are a pandemic in Mexico. There are a number of factors contributing to this dire declaration, including drug cartels, gang violence, and a general insensitivity, or at least indifference, to violence against women. In 2019, Texas television station KVIA reported, “was the 4th most deadly in history” for Juarez.
Mexican artists, as Hyperallergic has previously reported, have been at the forefront of fighting this violence, demanding an end to violence and discrimination against women across Mexico. After two teenagers accused Mexico City policemen of rape in the summer of 2019, over 500 people participated in a series of actions known as “glitter protests.” Demonstrators, Zachary Small wrote, dumped pink glitter on the Mexico City police chief; then they vandalized “Angel of Independence” monument with graffiti that said “they don’t take care of us” and “rape state.”
In November, as Monica Castillo reported, a group of mothers, holding babies, breastfed outside and inside of the Museum of Modern Art to protest the removal of a previous patron for breastfeeding at the museum. The same day, protesters descended once again on the Angel of Independence, crocheting pink and purple hearts, and painting the barricades around the statue to protest femicide across Mexico.
Following Cabanillas murder, artists are once again rallying. On Facebook, Hijas de su Maquilera Madre collective asked that people all over the world take to the streets to protest their member’s death tomorrow, January 25, “for the demand of justice for the political femicide of Isabel Cabanillas.”
“We demand respect, justice, security,” JRZ Art, another art collective, wrote on Facebook. Their page banner now reads #JusticiaParaIsabel.
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