SANTA FE, N.M. – A 70-year-old woman whose mummified body was recently found in her Santa Fe apartment was identified as a Chicana activist, teacher and author.
Santa Fe police said the decomposed remains of Barbara Salinas-Norman were discovered last week and authorities say she may have been dead for more than a year.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Salinas-Norman founded and ran a publishing company called Pinata Publications in the office of her then-husband, Sam Norman, an Oakland lawyer. She began writing, illustrating and publishing her own books designed to help Mexican American children identify with their culture. She gave up teaching to write full time in 1983.
She was the author of "Los Tres Cerdos: Nacho, Tito and Miguel" — her version of "The Three Little Pigs." In the book, the third pig, Miguel, builds a home-made of adobe bricks. The illustrations depict New Mexico-style furnishings, Indian pottery, kiva fireplaces, vigas and retablos.
She also was a bilingual teacher in the Oakland, Calif., public schools in the 1980s.
Salinas' body was discovered by her brother-in-law, Louis Ponce, who said Friday that he had become concerned about her because he hadn't heard from her for a long time. He and his wife, Edna, Salinas' sister, decided to drive from their home in East Pasadena, Calif., to attend a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. A niece of Salinas was dancing at the event.
The couple drove to Santa Fe to check on Salinas and found her body lying in a filthy living room.
"If you saw the apartment, you would never walk inside it," Ponce told The New Mexican. "I never knew anybody could be that filthy."
Stories from friends and family suggested Salinas' life had been unraveling for some time. She often slept in her car and washed up in the bathroom at a local library. The gas and electricity had been turned off in her condo because she wasn't paying her bills. She ate at soup kitchens. Her home was in foreclosure.
Salinas earned a bachelor's degree in education from California State University in Los Angeles and a master's degree in public health education from the University of California, Berkeley. She became involved in the Chicano movement during that time and considered herself a founding mother of MEChA, (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), a student organization promoting higher education among Chicanos.
Peggy Trujillo, a librarian at the New Mexico State Library who had known Salinas since about 2009, said Salinas often came there to try to sort out matters related to her condo and other personal business. She brought crates containing papers scattered with excrement from mice. She told Trujillo that she was being threatened with eviction.
Salinas was very fond of the movie "Eat Pray Love," Trujillo said.
"She was so passionate about the movie," Trujillo said. "That was her dream story."