Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre

Artist and women’s rights activist, Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre was 26 years old when she was found shot to death beside her bicycle in the centro histórico  of Ciudad Juarez on 18 January, 2020.

According to the El Paso Times, Cabanillas was reported missing by friends on social media after she failed to return home. She was found shot to death on a sidewalk next to a bicycle. The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Women stated that two bullet wounds were found on Cabanillas’ body.

Cabanillas, who was passionate about clothing design, painting and social justice, worked on gender-based violence with the women’s network Mesa de Mujeres. She also had been a member of Hijas de su Maquilera Madre. The latter group’s name refers to daughters of mothers or family who work at the maquiladoras, but also to Juarez’s place as a capital of the manufacturing plants.

AWID, the Association of Women in Development, paid tribute to the work of Isabel: “Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre was a much loved young feminist artist and activist from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, known for her beautiful and evocative hand-painted clothing with eyes being an emblematic feature in her work. Her murals transformed the run down and vacant buildings in Ciudad Juarez’s downtown, bringing life and political commentary to their walls.

Through her art and political activism Isabel sought to draw attention to the gender based violence pervasive in her hometown. She volunteered with the women’s network Mesa de Mujeres on the Citizen Observatory on Gender to monitor the performance of judges, prosecutors and public defenders on cases of femicides and other gender-based violations. She was also a member of Hijas de su Maquilera Madre, a feminist collective whose name makes reference to the daughters of mothers who are maquila workers. Some of these mothers were among the first victims of femicide in the city.

Isabel’s latest project, still in progress, was an art installation to protest against the plans of a Canadian company that was looking to mine copper in the Samalayuca Desert.”

The Mexican government, which defines femicide as the violent killing of a woman or girl because of their gender, reported more than 30,000 violent homicides in 2021 through December, including 922 murders classified as femicides.

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Date of Killing:18/01/2020

Type of Work:Artist

Organisation:Hijas de su Maquilera Madre

Sector or Type of Rights the HRD Worked On:Civil and Political Rights, ESC Rights

Sector Detail:Sexual and Reproductive Rights, Women's Rights

More information:Front Line Defenders

1This database records an individual's chosen gender identity. If they do not self-identify as male or female they can use the option of recording other/neither or use the term NBGI (non binary gender identity).