EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A march by hundreds of women’s rights demonstrators prompted the closing of a major port of entry into the United States for more than four hours Saturday.
The demonstrators began to assemble about 3 p.m. in downtown Juarez, Mexico and marched on the Paso del Norte international bridge about an hour later.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers initially only closed the vehicle lanes of the port of entry, but eventually shut down entry to pedestrians as well.
Most of the demonstrators were women — dressed in black and faces covered — who are demanding that the murderer of a fellow women’s rights advocate be identified and brought to justice. The women carried signs, banners and chanted insults at the mayor of Juarez, the governor of Chihuahua and even the president of Mexico, whom they say have been unable to protect women.
Isabel Cabanillas, 26, was shot to death on Jan. 18 in downtown Juarez. She was a mural painter, a clothing designer and a member of various women’s groups in Juarez. Her murder is unsolved, as are the murders and disappearances of hundreds of women and young girls in the past decade, the demonstrators said.
“We are marching to the international bridge so the world finds out what is going on in Juarez,” a protest leader said over a bullhorn. The demonstrators declined to give interviews and chastised reporters for towing the government line that out of the 180 women who were murdered in Juarez last year, many were in the drug trade. So far this year, another 13 women have been murdered in Juarez, opposite El Paso, Texas.
“Isa vive, vive, la lucha sigue, sigue (Isabel lives, the fight goes on),” the throng chanted.
A handful of supporters from El Paso activist organizations met the group in the middle of the bridge.
Speakers tore into Mexican officials for everything from the lack of street lighting to fostering the sexual and labor exploitation in Juarez. The city’s main employers of women are the foreign-run automotive, electronic, medical and industrial staples companies that the demonstrators say haven’t done enough to protect their workers once they leave the factories and go live in dangerous and impoverished neighborhoods.
“We covered our faces so people would notice us. And Isabel, she gave us a face and she will not be forgotten,” said another speaker. The protest climaxed with four women lying in the middle of the bridge in a pool of red liquid symbolizing blood.
The women left the bridge to light up candles at the spot Cabanillas was killed. They vowed to carry on with more protests on behalf of Cabanillas and all of the missing women.
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