Sunday, January 23, 2011


The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them.
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Death of Susana Chavez, female activist in Ciudad Juarez, not tied to organized crime, state says 

She coined the phrase "Ni una muerta mas," or "Not one more dead," a clamor of protest against the tide of violent and unsolved deaths of women in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, the "dying city."
Last week, Susana Chavez became a victim, too. The 36-year-old poet and activist was found dead on Jan. 6, strangled and with her left hand cut off.
Her death marks the latest addition to a grim figure. By Christmas Eve of last year, 978 women had died violently in the Juarez area since the state began recording the figure separately in 1993, reported El Diario de Juarez in late December (link in Spanish). Significantly, at least 300 of those deaths, or just under a third, occurred in 2010 amid skyrocketing bloodshed due to a war between drug cartels.
Others have been kidnapped, "disappeared," or raped in the violence, which often extends outside Juarez to the rest of Chihuahua state, news reports show. Some of the victims have been policewomen, lawyers, or prominent human rights activists. Many received threats.
But this week, after Chavez's remains were identified, a state prosecutor told reporters the woman was not killed in an organized crime hit, but rather died at the hands of three teenage boys after a night of partying. The teens, each 17 years old, have been arrested and questioned, officials said.
"They said they did not know her. They suddenly ran into her, she wanted to keep drinking, so did they, and well it was an unfortunate encounter," said state prosecutor Carlos Manuel Salas (link in Spanish).
When pressed on the question of whether Chavez might have been killed for her past work and poetry bringing attention to violence against women in Juarez, the prosecutor said: "Absolutely not."
In fresh statements on the case on Wednesday, authorities said that Chavez's mother confirmed that her daughter had been drinking the evening before her death. The teens killed her after Chavez told them she was a police officer, authorities said.
Juarez became internationally known after a yet-unsolved wave of "femicides" or "feminicides" (as the deaths of women are known) peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Last month, a Juarez mother was shot and killed while keeping a lone vigil outside the Chihuahua statehouse over the death of her daughter at the hands of a man freed by judges. In the small town of Guadalupe, the only remaining police officer was kidnapped from her home and has not been heard from since.
Ciudad Juarez is by far the most violent city in Mexico, and by some estimates the most violent in the world, with 3,111 dead in 2010, local reports say, citing government figures. The rival Sinaloa and Juarez cartels are battling over control for the lucrative Juarez drug-trafficking route across the border into El Paso, Texas.
Susana Chavez kept a blog  on which she published poems. One of them, "Sangre," or "Blood," is written from the perspective of a victim.
At her funeral, friend Armine Arjona told El Diario: "She was a great, excellent poet, at a national level among women. She had stopped writing but she had lot of unpublished work, which we will find some way to publish."
--Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City, Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2011 |  9:25 am
*    *    *

[From her blog: The title of her blog means "The First Storm"]:

Susana Chavez was born on November 5, 1974 in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, where she currently resides.  She started writing at the age of 11.

She has had public readings at: the Cultural Bazaar (organized by the municipality of Ciudad Juárez, where she was the forerunner of the poetry readings); "Erotic Unicycle" organized by the municipality; and the Miletnia group. 1st and 2nd national meeting of poets; "Raising the Voice" 3rd and 4th meeting of poets in Juarez; and the 2nd meeting of the Youth Camp for Diversity and Tolerance in Tepoztlan, Morelos. She has performed in readings for the blind at the Library Arturo Tolentino, and in several programs with Radio Juarez, presentations at cafes such as the INBA, La Peña de Sancho Panza, The Mediterranean Café, reading for the Committee for Prostitutes of Juarez, readings at marches offered for dead and missing women in Ciudad Juárez.  Her work has been published in A Performance of Veronica Leiton, and collaborated in the latest multidisciplinary show, "Elements". She has also been published in many journals and newspapers.

Susana has also directed short films and participated as a model for the cover of the film "16 On The List," a film about crimes against women in Juarez.

She is currently studying for a degree in Psychology at the Institute of Social Sciences and Management at the Autonomous University of the Ciudad Juarez, and working on a new book.
*    *    *

masculine noun
1. Encouragement (aliento)
  • dar ánimos a alguien -> to encourage somebody

2. Energy, Vitality (energía) ; Disposition (humor)
  • ¡levanta ese á.! -> cheer up!
  • no tiene ánimos para nada -> she doesn't feel like doing anything
  • los ánimos estaban revueltos -> feelings were running high

3. Intention (intención)
  • con/sin á. de -> with/without the intention of
  • lo hice sin á. de ofenderte -> I didn't mean to offend you
  • sin á. de lucro -> not-for-profit (organización), non-profit-making (British)

4. Courage (valor)
5. Spirit (alma)
*    *    *


Sangre mía,

          de alba,

          de luna partida,

          del silencio.

          de roca muerta,

          de mujer en cama,

          saltando al vacío,

Abierta a la locura.

Sangre clara y definida,

          fértil y semilla,

Sangre incomprensible gira,

Sangre liberación de sí misma,

Sangre río de mis cantos,

Mar de mis abismos.

Sangre instante donde nazco adolorida,

Nutrida de mi última presencia.


Blood of my own,

           blood of sunrise,

           blood of a broken moon,

           blood of silence,

           of dead rock,

           of a woman in bed

           jumping into nothingness,

Open to the madness.

Blood clear and definite,

           fertile seed,

Blood the unbelievable journey,

Blood as its own liberation,

Blood, river of my songs,

Sea of my abyss.

Blood, painful moment of my birth,

Nourished by my last appearance.
*    *    *

May we see the gates of Ánimo, and perhaps make a home there.

And Susana Chavez, may your spirit carry on in all who remember you. What is remembered, lives.

Thanks to my wonderful twin, Kael, for calling attention to this story and for translating Susana's blog profile.


  1. Thank you for including the death of Susana Chavez in your blog, Rick.

    In my experience, most Americans have very little sense of how extreme conditions in northern Mexico have become in the last 5 years. Only the very worst stories appear in the L.A. or N.Y. Times. Civilization in parts of Mexico is breaking down. Some towns of up to 10,000 people are becoming uninhabited as people flee the violence and leadership positions (mayor, police chief) remain vacant -- because anyone who steps forward is executed or disappeared. Ciudad Juárez is the epicenter of cartel-on-cartel violence. (The weakened Juárez cartel is fighting to maintain its grip on its "plaza" (a drug trafficking corridor) against the Sinaloa cartel.) It is worth noting, however, that the unsolved murders of women there began long before the current spike of narcoviolencia.

  2. yes the crimes against the young girls began earlier. Now with no hope of justice or protection or even acknowledgement of these crimes, the fear that must exist in the young girls and the parents of young girls must be enormous. What can we do but spread the word, those of us secure in our removal from such evil. We can only voice , try to voice , try to be the voice, for those whose voice has been choked by fear.