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 (link in Spanish).
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
Photo: Pink crosses with the phrase "Not one more," symbolizing women killed violently in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Credit: Griterio.org