Artists in Mexico Are Remembering a Murdered Activist With Murals—and Raising Money for the Family She Left Behind

The murder of Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre, the young Mexican artist and feminist activist who was killed in Ciudad Juárez last month, has already sparked demonstrations along the US–Mexico Border, as well as in the capital, Mexico City.

Now, her friends, while continuing to protest her death and the spate of femicides in Juárez, are celebrating her life and pulling together to support the son she left behind.

Isabel Cabanillas was an artist from Juárez, she was our colleague, our friend, and she was part of our family,” says Arón Venegas, the cofounder and project director of Puro Borde (Pure Borders), which works across the border in Juárez and El Paso.

For a group exhibition that turned into an impromptu memorial for the young artist, Venegas made a work to raise funds to help support her orphaned son.

“I decided to remember her with an image of her bike with a pot with a sunflower on the back,” Venegas says. He printed the work on the street outside the venue for the show, a bakery called Panaderia Rezizte.

Print sales helped raise funds for Isabel Cabanillas’s son. Photo courtesy of Arón Venegas, Puro Borde.

“Donations will be going directly to a savings account for her son, Alfredito,” he explains. “This is a way to say to him and the family that we are there to help as an artists’ community.” 

The late artist was a member of the feminist collective Hijas de su Maquilera Madre, which plans to create an edition of its publication, La Hilacha, dedicated to Cabanillas.  Other artists are remembering the women’s rights activist through murals.

“We are sure she would have done the same for any of us,” Venegas says. Cabanillas’s bike now hangs above the bakery.

A mural commemorates Isabel Cabanillas in Ciudad Juarez. Photo courtesy of Aron Venegas, Puro Borde.

A mural commemorates Isabel Cabanillas in Ciudad Juárez. Photo courtesy of Arón Venegas, Puro Borde.

Cabanillas was reported missing by friends on social media after she failed to return home from a night out. She was found shot to death on a sidewalk next to her bicycle on January 18. Police stated that two bullet wounds were found in her body, and that the motive for the attack is unclear.

Cabanillas’s death, which has been described as a femicide by activists, sparked a mass demonstration in Ciudad Juárez, and a protest in the Mexican capital last month.

In Juárez, hundreds marched to the US-Mexico border bridge chanting, “Ni una mas” (not one more). Some sprayed the slogan on walls. A group also staged a die-in with a pool of fake blood.

Meanwhile, in Mexico City, masked protesters poured red paint onto a statue and threw a flaming projectile at a monument of Christopher Columbus on the city’s Reforma Avenue, the Associated Press reported.

According to the campaign group National Citizens Observatory on Femicide, less than a third of the hundreds of violent deaths of women every year in Mexico are investigated specifically as femicides.

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