SANTA FE, N.M., May 14 (UPI) -- Barbara Salinas-Norman, a trailblazing Chicana activist, educator and author died in New Mexico months before any relatives found out, her family said.
She was 70.
Salinas, known as "Bobbi" to her friends, was born in Los Angeles where she went to college and became active in a group of young Latino students who saw their heritage largely ignored in educational circles.
"The books in Spanish came from Spain, and the children in them looked European," Salinas said in a 2005 interview. "Here we were, eating beans in Frito Bandito land. We were never pictured as attractive people, only as short and fat."
She would go on to write and illustrate children's books with Latino takes on some American classics, including "Los Tres Cerdos: Nacho, Tito and Miguel" -- her take on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale, which earned her the Tomas Rivera award in 1999.
But, The (Santa Fe) New Mexican said in her later years Salinas had slipped into isolation and debt, living in her car and washing in a library bathrooms, or in her rat-infested apartment with no utilities.
Louis Ponce, Salinas' brother-in-law, drove to Santa Fe from Albuquerque with his wife, Salinas' sister, Edna, after being unable to reach Salinas for about a year. She had no phone number and letters to her apartment were sent and never returned, seemingly floating off into the ether.
When Ponce arrived at the condo where Salinas had lived he was greeted with a gruesome scene, the newspaper said. Her body was inside, mummified, with a putrid stench, sitting the entire time behind an unlocked door.
A preliminary report shows she died of natural causes.