Marisela Escobedo Memorial Plaque – Chihuahua, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

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Marisela Escobedo Memorial Plaque

This simple plaque remembers the fearless human rights defender's tragic death. 

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Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was a human rights defender, who tirelessly sought justice for the murder of her daughter and other victims of violent crime in Mexico. This unassuming plaque marks the place where Escobedo was shot by an unknown assailant on December 16, 2010.

Two years earlier, in August 2008, Escobedo’s 16-year-old daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre, was reported missing in Ciudad Juárez, forever changing the course of Escobedo’s life. In June 2009, Frayre’s remains were found on the outskirts of the city; the main suspect in her murder was her live-in boyfriend, Sergio Rafael Barraza.

After her daughter’s death, Escobedo began campaigning for her daughter’s killer to be brought to justice. Like many femicide cases in Mexico, authorities did little to find Frayre’s murderer and hardly any attempts to find and question Barraza took place. Escobedo decided to take matters into her own hands, finding a way to track Barraza to the state of Zacatecas, where it had become clear he had now joined one of the country’s many powerful criminal organizations. Due to the crossing of state lines and the relationship between the cartels and the political establishment, Barraza had become almost untouchable.

Despite this, the Chihuahua state police did manage to arrest him in June 2009. Despite Barraza actually confessing to Frayre’s murder, the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence. Escobedo continued her fight for justice, organizing marches and protests for Frayre and other femicide victims, and family members and people related to other victims joined the cause. Eventually, another court overturned Barraza’s acquittal and sentenced him to 50 years in prison for Frayre’s murder. But Barraza escaped apprehension.

Escobedo continued her fight for justice. Despite threats to her life, on December 8, 2010, Escobedo began a sit-in in front of the Government Palace of Chihuahua where newly-elected state governor César Duarte worked. On December 16, a masked man chased Escobedo and shot her in the head. The building’s security cameras recorded the murder.

The deaths of both Frayre and Escobedo would become symbolic of the impunity pervading crime in Mexico, with women in the northern states being overwhelmingly affected. In 2011, a plaque honoring both Frayre and Escobedo was installed on the square where Escobedo was shot down.

In 2012, Barraza was killed during a shootout between the cartel and police. Later, the alleged murderer of Escobedo died in prison. César Duarte was arrested in Florida in 2020 on fraud and corruption charges. According to Insight Crime, he “struck deals with criminal groups, allowing them to operate with impunity in certain areas in exchange for maintaining low levels of violence.”

This plaque stands as a reminder of the impunity many criminal organizations continue to operate under in Mexico and the continued violence against women in the country. 

Know Before You Go

The lives of Marisela Escobedo and Rubí Marisol are the subject of the 2020 Netflix documentary The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo.

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