MEXICO: Murdered and Disappeared Women Writers

In recognition of International Women's Day, PEN centers around the world are calling attention to the escalating violence against women writers in Mexico.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a writer. Since 2006, at least 45 journalists, writers, and bloggers have been murdered or have disappeared, most of them while completing journalistic work. Since 2009, women writers have been increasingly targeted. Five of the nine Mexican writers killed in 2011 were women; their murders are particularly disturbing cases.

On International Women's Day - March 8, 2012 - PEN Center USA calls on its members to commemorate our fallen and missing female colleagues from Mexico. Please sign the petition below. Appeals for justice will be sent to Mexico's President, Attorney General, and Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression.


Susana Chávez Castillo, a prominent poet and activist, led protests against the unsolved killings of women raped and killed in Ciudad Juárez.

Killed: January 6, 2011
in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state.

Chávez (37) was found strangled with a bag over her head and her left hand cut off in the center of Ciudad Juárez on January 6, 2011; her body was identified five days later. The authorities were quick to deny that her murder was related to her activism and poetry highlighting the "femicides," or to organized crime. The Chihuahua state attorney general’s office said that Chávez was killed by three teenage boys she had met while out drinking. The teenagers allegedly invited her to a house belonging to one of them and murdered her while they were drunk and high on drugs, cutting off her hand to try to make the murder look as if it was connected to organized crime. All three suspects were arrested and charged with her murder.

Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz was a crime reporter and columnist for the regional daily newspaper Notiver.

Killed: July 24-26, 2011 in Boca del Rio, Veracruz.

Ordaz was abducted by gunmen as she left her house on July 24, 2011; her decapitated body was found two days later, near the building of the newspaper Imagen de Veracruz. A note found with the body seemed to connect her murder with that of another Notiver columnist Miguel Ángel López Velasco. The note said: “Friends can also betray you” and was signed “Carranza.” A former traffic police officer named Juan Carlos Carranza Saavedra has reportedly been identified as the main suspect in López’s murder. Ordaz had covered the war on drugs and the police beat for Notiver. At a press conference on July 26, 2011, the state attorney general reportedly stated that the killing was not related to Ordaz’s journalistic work and that the evidence to date seemed to indicate that her killers were members of an organized crime group. However, a spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office later confirmed that the journalist’s work was one of the lines of investigation being followed. Mexico’s Human Rights Commission reportedly planned to open its own investigation into the murder. For more information, see the PEN International RAN alert here.

Ana María Marcela Yarce Viveros founded the bimonthly political magazine Contralinea, where she also reported and led public relations.

Killed: August 31, 2011 in Mexico City, Federal District.

Yarce (pictured left) was found dead in a park in Mexico City on September 1, 2011, alongside freelance journalist and former Televisa reporter Rocio González Trápaga (pictured right). Yarce and González, both 48, were reportedly abducted as they left their office in the city center the previous night. Their bodies were found naked with nooses around their necks and their hands tied behind their backs. On September 30 and October 1, 2011, two men suspected of killing the journalists were arrested. The suspects reportedly confessed to the murders, and the Mexico City attorney general’s office said that the motive for the killings was robbery. A third man is also thought to be under arrest in connection with the crimes. Contralinea has frequently exposed corruption in its coverage and has been the target of intimidation and judicial harassment, particularly since 2007 when it published reports that proved embarrassing for the national oil company PEMEX. For more information, see the PEN International RAN alert here.

María Elizabeth Macías Castro was editor-in-chief and blogger for the daily newspaper Primera Hora.

Killed: September 24, 2011 in Nueva Laredo, Tamaulipas state.

Macías was found dead in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, on September 24, 2011; her body had been decapitated. A note found next to her accused her of denouncing drug violence on social networks and websites such as Nuevo Laredo en Vivo (Nuevo Laredo Live). On these sites, members of the public can leave messages indicating to the security forces where gangs congregate and sell drugs. The state authorities said that the message had been left by a criminal gang. The note reportedly made reference to the pen name Macías used when blogging, "La Nena de Nuevo Laredo," and was signed with the letter "Z," usually associated with the Zetas cartel. A similar note was found near the bodies of two people discovered hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo on September 13, 2011. The Tamaulipas state government reportedly expressed its "deepest condolences" to Macías' family and friends. The state attorney general's office is investigating the murder. For more information, see the PEN International alert here.


María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe was a reporter for the daily newspaper El Diario de Zamora and local correspondent for the regional daily El Cambio de Michoacán.

Missing since November 11, 2009. Last seen in Zamora, Michoacán state.

Aguilar (32) was last seen leaving her home on November 11, 2009, after she received a call on her mobile phone. It is thought that her disappearance may be related to a series of articles she had recently written on local corruption and organized crime. On October 22, 2009, she covered a military operation near Zamora where at least three individuals, including the son of a local politician, were arrested on suspicion of collaborating with organized crime groups. On October 27, she reported on local police abuse, after which a high-ranking official was forced to resign. Three days later, she published a story on the arrest of an alleged leader of the drug cartel La Familia Michoacana. The Special Federal Attorney’s Office for Combating Violence against the Media (FEADP) reportedly took over the investigation on November 18, 2009. A year later Cansimbe was still missing and her relatives feared that the investigation was going nowhere. For more information, see the PEN International RAN alert here.

International Women's Day

Annually on March 8, thousands of events are held throughout the world to celebrate the achievements of women. According to the IWD website, International Women's Day is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.


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