Shooting the crowd a mischievous smile, she raises the tequila shot to her slightly fuzzy lip.
She shouts a ‘Cheers!’ and throws back the tequila without so much as a blink.
Frida Kahlo, or rather her doppelganger, leans on her cane and continues regaling the schoolchildren and tourists with stories of her life in the Caza Azul, the Blue House.
When I think of the word fierce as describing someone, I think of a person with strength and conviction, someone unconcerned with conventional opinion and, typically, someone who can pull off a killer outfit.
By my reasoning, what could be fiercer than a bisexual Mexican female artist with a mustache and a unibrow whose ensembles are currently on exhibit by Vogue Mexico?
Though Frida Kahlo died in 1954, her memory continues to live on in the halls of her 10-room home. The house with bright blue walls, located in the now-chic neighborhood of Coyoacán, has been turned into the Frida Kahlo Museum.
The house where she lived with her husband, housed fugitive communist Leon Trotsky and eventually died in is open to admirers who can browse through her personal belongings and experience first-hand how the woman loved to live: Against the grain.
Her work and indeed her life are indicative of the revolution so embedded in her homeland’s culture. She is rumored to have changed her birth year from 1907 to 1910 to coincide with the Mexican Revolution. Her work celebrating the female form, at the time controversial, is now considered iconic. Her decision to buck conventional trends like typical fashion and grooming meant she proudly donned indigenous clothing and, at the time, unseemly facial hair.
Being the fierce woman she was, Kahlo overcame disease and injury from an early age. Instead of succumbing to polio at the age of six, or giving in to the agonizing pain of the 1925 car accident where she was left in a body cast with a broken spinal column, broken collarbone, broken ribs and pelvis, a crushed right foot and a dislocated shoulder, Kahlo persevered.
The injuries, rather than breaking her down, catalyzed her artistic talents. While she was ill and bed-ridden, she had a mirror installed facedown on her bed canopy so that she could learn how to paint her own face.
She famously said: ‘I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.’
See? She’s fierce!
Through her art and her own personal style, Khalo was also a lover of indigenous themes and motifs. She often used vibrant colors to paint and dress, as well as using the monkey in her art. In mythology, the monkey signifies lust, but Khalo presents the mammal as a tender subject in her work. Her skills were encouraged and nurtured by artist Diego Rivera, perhaps best known for his paintings of the backs of indigenous women with braided hair and carrying giant lilies.
Rivera, himself a symbol of Mexican revolution and artistic icon, had his hand in re-designing the home Kahlo was born in. The halls and gardens are littered with miniature stone statues from pre-Historian eras collected by the couple.
Ever the rebel, Kahlo went against her mother’s wishes and married the Mexican artist, who was jealous of her affairs with other men but tolerated her affairs with women who included performer Josephine Baker. The volcanic stone contrasting with the bright green flora of the landscaped yard, and the cobalt-blue perimeter walls shows a marriage between indigenous themes, ancient and contemporary. Kahlo seemed an expert at doing just that: Bringing aspects her roots and celebrating them in her days of life, an achievement reflected in her art unfortunately not truly appreciated until decades after her death.
Despite political and social tensions with indigenous populations, Mexico City is a great place to see how traditional cultures continue to thrive in the country.
Bazar El Sábado at Plaza San Jacinto in the San Angel neighborhood is a daytime market nestled amongst beautiful Colonial-era buildings. Lining the short gates of the park and walking throughout the cobblestone streets are traditional artisans selling everything from pottery, jewelry, hand crafted leather goods and of course paintings.
Stopping into a coffee shop with an impressive selection of artisanal teas, I see young children selling paper flowers and hand-woven blankets. Walking out, I stroll past ice cream vendors and an elderly woman playing a wooden flute. In nearly every corner you turn in Mexico City, you’re hard pressed not to fall in love with the city’s vibrant roots giving way to modern-day offerings.
To plan your own trip to the Friday Kahlo Museum, Bazar El Sábado or any other of Mexico’s tourist destinations, visit the national airline AeroMexico to check out flight prices and specials.