The mummified remains of a Chicana author, activist, and teacher were found inside her Santa Fe, New Mexico home last week. Authorities and family members believe the body of Barbara Salinas-Norman may have been inside the home for over a year.

At one time Salinas was a prominent children's author. She wrote and published stories – through Pinata Publications, which she founded – designed to help Mexican American children identify with their culture. As she told The Miami News in 1998:

“The books in Spanish came from Spain, and the children in them looked European.” And, she added, “Here we were, eating beans in Frito Bandito land. We were never pictured as attractive people, only as short and fat.”

She also worked as a bilingual teacher in Oakland.

In recent years, however, Salinas had become reclusive and suffered from financial problems.

She became “pretty much homeless,” according to her friend Peggy Trujillo. She sometimes slept in her car in the Sam's Club parking lot because, she told Trujillo, mice would crawl over her when she slept at home. Trujillo hadn't seen her since the end of 2011.

Salinas' body was discovered by her brother-in-law, Louis Ponce, who told the New Mexican that he'd visited the home determined to “find her no matter what” because it'd been such a long time – over two years — since he had last heard from her.

When he entered the home, which was filled with an odor that Ponce described as “awful,” he found her mummified remains near a poster that parodied Rosie the Riveter.

This version shows Rosie as a skeleton, with a red cloth on her head and her arm raised in a fist under the caption, “Sí, Se Muere!” Yes, we die.

Once Ponce spotted the body, he panicked. “I ran like hell,” he told the New Mexican.

“If you saw the apartment, you would never walk inside it,” he said. “I never knew anybody could be that filthy.”

There was, according to Ponce, debris everywhere, as if Salinas had been a hoarder. Ponce said there'd been similar messes at her previous residences, from which he'd helped her move. “It’s been this way for the last 10 years,” he said.

A preliminary autopsy revealed that Salinas likely died of natural causes.

[Image via AP]

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