Our apartment is a ten minute walk from Frida Kahlo’s house. Coyoacan is a suburb south of the centre which has profited from its ongoing redevelopment. It is brimming with coffee shops and a variety of restaurants, indulging in every cuisine. The laid back vibe contrasts city life and if we choose not to venture too far from our apartment we are still kept entertained.
We decided to dress up accordingly to visit our idol, Queen Frida. My mum chose a beautiful aztec print dress, with turquoise, pink and orange detail contrasting the black silhouette. Ruby painted her face as a traditional dia de los muertos calavera (sugar skull) and wore flowers in her hair. For me a floor length teared skirt paid homage to one of my all time style icons. I had pre booked our visit to the museum before I left the UK, I imagined that La Casa Azul would be a hotspot for tourists capturing dia de los muertos celebrations. I was right, the queue was 100metres long when we arrived at 10.30am, half an hour before opening. Our tickets included a queue jump and we entered without a fuss.
As you walk through the walled terrace you are instantly transported into one of Frida’s many photographs. The azul backdrop and the abundance of succulents, cacti and other greenery make it easy to identify the inspiration to her colour palette not only in her paintings but in her dress too. That particular feeling of deja vu confirms I have been here before, yet I haven’t. It is Frida’s art, photographs, diaries and her words that make these surroundings feel so familiar. We enter through Diego’s quarters, there are none of his belongings here. The walls are white and are filled with both recognisable and unseen works. As you twist through each room you are introduced to art that filled the walls of the once occupied casa, gifts from other surrealist and cubist artists. Personal photographs, portraits and unfinished works grace the last gallery room as you are whisked through to the hub of the house, the dining room/kitchen.
Traditional Mexican pottery line the walls, placed fashionably within canary yellow shelves. Petite ornate figures are made to feel even more minuscule next to the sturdy wooden table and chairs. Just off the dining room was where Trotsky stayed during his time here with the artists, exiled from Russia and eventually killed around a mile away in Coyoacan. The mosaic tiles in the kitchen spell out Diego and Frida, giant terracotta pots, glazed in blues and greens sit underneath. We reach Frida’s studio, a wheelchair sits empty next to an easel attached to a pulley, some powdered paint sit close by next to a mirror, used to create those famous self portraits. Next is her bed where her death mask lies, at the foot I notice a number of photographs, presumably Frida’s communist heroes which included Marx and Lenin. There are a collection of dolls, all hand made by Frida, all with her face yet styled with traditional costumes from around the world. I once read, that as Frida walked down the street in her Tehuantepec outfits, the local kids would shout – ‘Where’s the circus?’, She would walk on with her head held high. I love that, be who you want to be.
We have coffee in the gardens to prolong our stay at La Casa Azul before heading towards Mecardo Coyoacan for some lunch. The markets here are so overwhelming, piles and piles of things toppled on top of one and other. No rules, no regulations, only people barging through, focused on their daily intentions. We stop at Vicky’s and grab a high stool at the counter. With no idea what to order a pleasant man having his lunch translates the options for us. I choose mole enchiladas and Mum gets chicken escalope and rice, it was truly one of the tastiest meals I have ever eaten and all for 60 pesos (roughly two pounds). All filled up and raring to go we set off for San Angel to visit the next Frida Kahlo museum, the studio she shared with Diego Rivera, famed for the walkway that connected their separate houses. Research tells me as well as our AirBNB host, San Angel is Coyoacan’s neighbouring district, therefore walking distance. An hour and a half later three exhausted girls arrive at Museo-Casa-Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo.
As we approach the house, there is no getting away from how modern it looks, I imagine in 1920’s Mexico it would have been quite revolutionary. The inside felt hostile and some what impersonal even though it was filled with Diego’s art. Comparing it to Casa Azul where we felt love in abundance, here I can only imagine Frida’s struggle. The spiral staircase, narrow corridors and that really high bridge must have been horrendous with a disability, but then I guess part of Frida was to hide her barriers, to get on with things and to fight through the daily industrious endeavours. My short time here is a realisation that this attitude isn’t just Frida’s, it is the way of her people. Life here is tough and the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera depicts that. They found their beauty within their hardship. I can see it, I can feel it and right now I am living it.
Long Live the VEF and Frida you will forever be my QUEEN