Burned alive over a neighbor dispute: The agony of a Mexican woman under death threat

A 35-year-old woman, Luz Raquel Padilla Gutiérrez, died three days after being doused with alcohol and set on fire in Guadalajara, in Jalisco state, where she had filed complaints

Feminicidio en México: Luz Raquel Padilla en una imagen de sus redes sociales
Luz Raquel Padilla in an image posted on her social media. Right: graffiti warning 'I am going to burn you alive'RR SS

“You’re going to die, dyke!” read one message sprayed in black paint on the outside of Luz Raquel Padilla Gutiérrez’s apartment. “I’m going to burn you alive!” warned another.

Last May, Padilla took photographs of the threats and filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. Now she is dead.

On the night of July 16, she was doused with two gallons of alcohol and set on fire in a public space in the Arcos neighborhood of Zapopan, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Luz, 35, sustained burns on 90% of her body and despite efforts to save her, died three days later, on July 19.

Witnesses said four men and one woman were involved, fleeing the scene in the wake of the attack. According to sources close to the victim, one of the men was a neighbor who had become infuriated by the noise generated by Padilla’s 11-year-old son who suffers from autism.

The Jalisco Prosecutor’s Office has said that it is investigating the death of Padilla Gutiérrez under the femicide protocol. The authorities acknowledge that the victim had previously filed a complaint against her neighbor on account of threats and assaults that were linked to her son.

The State Prosecutor, Luis Joaquín Méndez, has just announced that one of the neighbors is presenting his statement as a witness but is not directly implicated as he was not present when the assault took place. “We have him at our disposal. The intention is for him to testify regarding the facts and to continue working on the file,” Méndez stated, adding that they are trying to obtain videos and testimonies on the attack. Meanwhile, Padilla’s son is being cared for by his grandmother and aunt.

Receiving little joy from the authorities, Padilla took to social media to publicize the danger she was in. “How long am I going to have to live in fear that something could happen to me and my family while my aggressor is still roaming the city threatening to harm me?” she tweeted. The message was accompanied by photographs showing the menacing graffiti.

The collective Yo Cuido México – I Care for Mexico – to which Padilla belonged, stated that she had survived a prior attack involving industrial chlorine or bleach thrown at her thorax area. When Padilla reported the incident to the Zapopan police, the response was not what she considered to be adequate. “She asked to be admitted to the Pulso de Vida program in order to receive protection due to the constant threats and violence against her, linked to the behavior of her autistic son,” says a spokesman for the collective set up for families caring for members with disabilities. “However, her request was denied as the threats were not considered sufficient cause.”

Via videos on TikTok, Padilla had made it known that her 11-year-old son suffered from autism and epilepsy, which caused him to suffer from constant seizures, representing a significant financial burden for her. She also made it clear that her aggressor kept bothering her and her son. “I have to focus on my son,” she filmed herself saying on the verge of tears. “I can’t waste my energy.”

In a previous video, Padilla expressed her gratitude for the support shown to her by other TikTok users, regarding the threats and acts of violence towards her. “Between us all, we look after each other. The police don’t look after us, but I believe in us,” she said optimistically.

Padilla’s death is just one more in a country where 11 women are murdered every day. In the first half of this year, the state of Jalisco had already racked up 17 of the 479 femicides recorded across the country.

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