A lesbian couple has been identified as the pair of young women found tortured, shot, and dismembered outside a Mexican border city that has for decades been plagued by violence from drug and human-trafficking cartels, as well as gender-based violence targeting women.
The bodies of Yulizsa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez, both 28, were discovered on Jan. 16, severed and wrapped inside garbage bags, at two separate points, along a 17-mile stretch of the Juárez-Porvenir highway in a mostly-rural area outside Ciudad Juárez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, according to the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario.
The women, who leave behind three children, were married last July and were living in Ciudad Juárez, just over the border from El Paso, Texas, where Ramírez — also identified by the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office as Tania Montes Hernández — claimed to live on her Facebook page. The couple frequently traveled between the two cities, and were last seen Saturday after visiting relatives on the Mexican side of the border.
On January 6, just 10 days before their deaths, Martínez had published a text, imposed over the image of an eerie-looking clown smoking a cigarette, to Ramírez’s Facebook wall, reading: “It seems unbelievable, but every time we are happy, something happens that ruins everything.”
The couple’s murder comes amid a new wave of violence in which more than a dozen women and more than 50 men have been killed in Ciudad Juárez so far this year. In fact, just two days after the discovery of Ramírez and Martínez’s remains, two other women were found in plastic bags that were discarded by the roadside in the southeastern part of the city, according to La Verdad. One woman was dead, and the other barely clinging to life. She later died of her injuries. Both had been tortured and shot.
The two back-to-back double homicides sparked feminist activists, LGBTQ advocates, and women’s groups to lead a march from the Attorney General’s office to the Center for Women’s Justice, on Thursday, demanding that authorities take steps to curb the violence, and in particular, gender-based violence against women.
According to the El Paso Times, about 40 protesters marched, many donning pink face masks and purple handkerchiefs associated with the feminist movement in Mexico. Others carried rainbow flags and signs expressing support for LGBTQ rights. While rallying outside the attorney general’s office, the protesters called for a full investigation into the double homicides, and how the victims’ gender and sexual orientation may have played a role in their deaths.
“We are calling on society to pay attention to the awful violence that women in Juárez suffer, as there have already been a series of violent events in the city at the start of the year,” advocates from the various organizations, including Programa Compañeros, Red Mesa de Mujeres and the Marcha de las Diversidades Afectivo Sexuales, said in a statement.
Ciudad Juárez has had a decades-long reputation for violence, particularly drug-related violence carried out by cartels and street gangs, as well as public killings, and gruesome murders of women, which the Mexican government has labeled “femicides.” Nearly 1,000 women across Mexico are believed to have been killed because of their gender last year, with 180 female victims in Ciudad Juárez alone.
After news of Ramírez and Martínez’s deaths broke, the Chihuahua Committee for Sexual Diversity, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said in statements posted to Facebook and Twitter that the brutality of the women’s killings seems to indicate some level of animus, and called on authorities not only to classify the murders as a hate crime, but bring the couple’s killers to justice.
However, The Washington Post has reported that the attorney general’s office has since ruled out classifying the murders as a hate crime.
“In this case, the investigation lines are linked to the economic activity that both victims carried out and with the people they related to in that environment,” Roberto Javier Fierro Duarte, the attorney general of Chihuahua, said in a news release.
Asked whether the economic activity that the couple carried out could be related to organized crime, Oscar Martínez, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, told the Post that he was not authorized to give any further details because the investigation was ongoing.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!