Thirty-nine year old Luz Miriam Vargas Castaño, mother of two young children, was an indigenous leader dedicated to working for peace in her community. She lived on the indigenous territory of Avirama in Páez, Cauca. She was also a member of the Asociación de Autoridades Tradicionales Indígenas Nasa Çxhãçxha, (Association of Traditional Authorities Nasa Çxhãçxha) and in this role she was part of a peace building project called Paz Adentro (Internal Peace). Luz also worked to expand economic opportunities for local people. In one of these projects she was developing a range of facemasks impregnated with traditional remedies to fight COVID.
On 26 June, 2020, Luz disappeared following an argument with her partner. The next day her body was found in the Páez river. She appeared to have been badly beaten.
Leaders of the Asociación de Autoridades Tradicionales Indígenas Nasa Çxhãçxha, (Association of Traditional Authorities Nasa Çxhãçxha) have expressed concern at the number of femicides which are never reported to the authorities. The alleged killer of Luz subsequently surrendered to the authorities following intense pressure from the community.
The women members of the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca) –CRIC, issued a statement in which they said: “Luz Miriam Vargas Castaño, was a Nasa indigenous woman who grew to be a courageous fighter for human rights, a woman who sowed the seeds of dignity, seeds that today more than ever sprout with strength to shout no more! We are not only outraged because a woman leader has been taken away from us, a woman full of strength, but we are outraged because we have said goodbye with pain to a daughter from the territory of Avirama, whose life was violently taken away at the hands of her ex-partner, who believed himself to be the owner of her life and her destiny “,