Hijas de Su Maquilera Madre march for ISA | Photo by Estefania Mitre

After murder of young artist in Juarez, protest groups adopt her image as icon

July 18th marked six months since Isabel Cabanillas, a young artist and mother of a six-year-old, was murdered in Downtown Juarez. And in those six months, like so many other femicide cases that have come before, there are still no answers, no arrests and seemingly no progress in the investigation.

Back in January, the National Institute of Women and the Chihuahuan Women’s Insitute classified Cabanillas’ murder as a femicide. 

In May 2020, Mexico’s National Public Security System reported 375 presumptive femicide cases from January to May 2020. Last year, Mexico reported over 900 cases of femicide.

Hijas de Su Maquilera Madre (Daughters of Maquila mothers), a collective of activists that Cabanillas was a member of, now lead some the protests demanding justice for her and the countless others murdered.

Last Saturday, the group used social media – especially Instagram – to remind the community that Cabanillas’ case, like so many others in the sprawling city, remains unsolved.

The Investigative website YoCiudadano also pointed out that the Chihuahua’s Specialized Women’s Prosecutor Office – the office in charge of Cabanilla’s case – hasn’t yet provided more details on the investigation.

“We are continuing with the investigation and can’t comment…it’s not the proper time to give out information,” said Julio Castañeda FEM’s spokesman.

“Isa Lives. Six months without justice. Six months without Isabel,” reads the Instagram post made by @hijasdesu_maquileramadre

Last Tuesday, the Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral was asked in a virtual conference about the Cabanillas investigation and he said he is expecting “successful” results from the investigation.

“Every day I ask prosecutor (Wendy) Chavez to give me a progress report on the investigation…we will seek justice that they are demanding and we hope to have a successful result in the investigation,” Corral responded.

For many, the questions, the delays and now even the cuts to gender-specific violence programs serve to frustrate, not inform.

The federal response by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador continues to be questioned, as the investigations continue against the backdrop of recent cuts to national programs against gender-based violence in Mexico.

“We are protecting (women), those who kill women are being punished,” the president said at one of his morning press conferences.

Although over 70% of the funding for the InMujeres (Institute of Women in Mexico) program will be cut, officials say that it would not affect the institution’s projects against gender violence; Tweetting that the cuts would exclusively affect “operational expenses.”

With cases seemingly at a standstill, several activists and collectives have demanded to meet with Lopez-Obrador to discuss the creation of legislation that will give justice to families of victims of femicides and “bring to the spotlight a problem that lacks federal, state, municipal attention.” 

As of the publication date of this story, no meetings have been scheduled.

Back in Juarez, all that is known about Cabanillas’ case is that is still unsolved; just like the countless others that wait for justice.