Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

LLILAS Benson Mourns Raquel Padilla Ramos

Thu, November 14, 2019
LLILAS Benson Mourns Raquel Padilla Ramos
Photo: Tahila Corwin Mintz

Late last week, we at LLILAS Benson received the devastating news that Raquel Padilla Ramos, a groundbreaking Mexican ethnographer and historian, was brutally murdered by her domestic partner on the afternoon of November 7, in Ures, Sonora, Mexico.

Raquel Padilla Ramos was the mother of three children and a beloved friend and colleague to many. Students, faculty, and staff at LLILAS Benson and the broader University of Texas community had the pleasure of meeting and working with Dr. Padilla Ramos in spring of 2014, when she was Lozano Long Visiting Professor here, a highly prestigious position for visiting scholars. A historian and researcher at the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Sonora, Mexico, she was a leader in her field, studying Mexico’s indigenous diaspora that has resulted from the deportation and displacement of Yaqui people.

A Passionate and Ethical Teacher

Historian Nicole Guidotti-Hernández was a friend of Padilla’s and her UT faculty sponsor. She wrote:

"Raquel Padilla Ramos has left an indelible mark on the hearts and lives of those who knew her, whether casually or as a close friend and ally. He senseless feminicidio cut short the life of a scholar who was finally receiving the international attention she deserved as a dedicated ethnographer and historian. Her last published book focused on 'the ever present and historically transcendent question about Indigenous communities in Mexico and Latin America through the defense of their access to natural resources.” For Yaquis, from the mid-nineteenth century until today, “there have been numerous and different struggles and wars waged with a similar argument: the capacity to preserve their territory, water, and their autonomous organizations as tribal peoples' (Los irredentos parias, 2014). 

“Prior to her death, we were talking about a new book on Cahitas (Yoreme women) from the Colonial period to the Revolution, to contribute to the field of Indigenous women's studies in Mexico’s northwest region. She was venturing English-language publication. If it had been published, the book would have put Padilla Ramos into the English-language sphere, solidifying her place in history alongside the greats like Edward Spicer and Jane Holden-Kelly. She had already achieved this status in the Spanish-language world, so the crossover would have been spectacular. 

“As her faculty sponsor in 2014, I wanted to bring Raquel to LLILAS as a recognition of her decades of work with Indigenous communities. She was deserving of a venue to expose a new audience to the texture of her research and a group of students to a compassionate and ethical teacher in the classroom. 

“One of the best parts of her time in residency at UT was seeing her and her children regularly. Her young son had developed a friendship with a LLILAS squirrel to which he fed acorns with regularity. When the semester ended and they were about to head back to Mexico, he asked, ‘will he remember me?’ She replied, 'yes, he will.’

“Like the cultivated friendship she encouraged between her young son and an animal, Raquel cultivated respect, love, friendship, reciprocity, and sometimes anger, depending on which side of the political spectrum you fell upon. It is only fitting that we remember her and her family as part of LLILAS, for she embodied the very values of social justice, stellar research, and respect for humanity that the institute represents."


Upon learning of Padillas' death, LLILAS faculty affiliates Gloria González-López (Sociology) and Héctor Domínguez-Ruvalcaba (Spanish and Portuguese) wrote a statement in Spanish denouncing Padilla Ramos’s murder and explaining its context in the intolerable wave of femicides in Mexico.

“The murder of Mexican historian Raquel Padilla Ramos has both shaken us and angered us for many reasons,” wrote González-López and Domínguez-Ruvalcaba. “First, it is yet one more case of femicide to mourn in our country, where this scourge intensifies year after year, still without effective policies that can at least have a mitigating effect. The death of our colleague moves us to redouble our efforts so that we may, once and for all, eradicate the misogyny and sexism that have claimed the lives of thousands of women. 

“Padilla’s participation [as visiting professor] in our programs went above and beyond the course she taught. One of her greatest contributions was to organize a public dialog with Yaqui leaders about water rights in the Mexican state of Sonora. Her social and political commitment with Indigenous communities was deeply inspiring to our students, who will undoubtedly follow her example. 

“It pains us that this murder—one that conforms to retrograde patriarchal mandates—has cut short a career of intellectual service and activism, one that we will always remember with special admiration, respect, and gratitude. 

“#VivasNosQueremos [#WeWantOurselvesAlive] is the feminist mantra that has no borders. We vehemently condemn the murder of Raquel and the wave of femicide and gender violence that affects women and girls throughout Latin America.” 

We will continue to say her name. Raquel Padilla Ramos, presente.

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  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

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