dusk near Cuernavaca

dusk near Cuernavaca

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Visit to Frida's House

This past weekend, an Argentinian friend of Alejandro was in here in Mexico City for  a couple days after vacationing in Acapulco.  He asked Alejandro if we could go to "La Casa Azul" (The Blue House), the home of the painter Frida Kahlo. 



Frida was the wife of muralist Diego Rivera, and during her lifetime she was overshadowed by her husband.  Now, more than sixty years after her death, she has attained the status of a cult figure and is arguably now the more famous of the two.  Tourists will find every kind of souvenir imaginable emblazoned with her image.  Whether or not you care for her art (personally, I appreciate her work, but she is not my favorite) there is no denying that her short life was full of drama.

The house where she was born and died is located in the picturesque neighborhood of Coyoacán and is now a museum.  I told Alejandro that if we were going to go there, we should buy tickets online ahead of time.  The last few times that I have been in Coyoacán, the line to enter the house has stretched down the block.  Alejandro purchased the tickets and was rather shocked at the price.  The admission was 220 pesos for foreigners... around $11 dollars U.S.   While that might not seem like much when compared to admission prices in other countries, consider the fact that entrance to the Anthropology Museum, one of the great museums of the world, is 70 pesos.  Whereas the Anthropology Museum is so huge that it would take days to see everything, "La Casa Azul" can be easily seen in less than an hour.  And if you are expecting to see Frida's artwork you will be disappointed.  Only a few of her minor works are on display here.  It truly seems that the museum is milking Frida's fame for everything it is worth.  (I wonder what Frida, an avowed Communist, would say about the fact that her name has become a money-making machine.)

Our tickets were for 1:00 on Saturday afternoon.  We went to the hotel where Alejandro's friend was staying, and we drove to Coyoacán.  We still had plenty of time before our admission time, so we wandered around a bit through the neighborhood.  Coyoacán was once a separate town from Mexico City, and it still has a small-town atmosphere that is quite different from the big city.  It is also, in large part because of "La Casa Azul", one of the most popular areas with tourists.  I heard more English being spoken here than in any other part of the city.

The center of the former town has two adjoining plazas.  One of them faces the beautiful Church of San Juan Bautista, one of the oldest parish churches in the city.




The other plaza faces the former town hall, which reputedly was the site of the home of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés immediately after the conquest of the Aztecs.  (His home was in fact probably elsewhere in Coyoacán.)




When we arrived at "La Casa Azul" the line for the visitors who had not purchased tickets ahead of time stretched down the street.


In the courtyard of the house there was still a Day of the Dead "ofrenda" in memory of Frida.


In an annex to the main museum there was a display of some of Frida's clothes.
When she was six years old Frida contracted polio which left her right leg withered.  For most of her life she had to wear a leg brace.


When she was eighteen she was in a nearly fatal bus accident in which she impaled by an iron handrail.  Because of damage to her vertebrae, she had to wear a harness for support.


Frida chose clothes, such as long skirts, that would hide her disabilities.  She also made a habit of wearing traditional, indigenous attire that became a part of her persona.



The main portion of the house is furnished as it was when Frida and Diego lived here.  Because of the crowds you are in a line of people moving slowly from one room to another.  You are required to pay an additional 30 pesos to take photographs, and you are given a sticker to wear.  Museum employees were checking to make sure that the people taking pictures had stickers.  Somewhere along the way, I lost my sticker, but somehow I managed to avoid the scrutiny of the employees.

This is Frida's studio.  Near the end of her life she had to have her leg amputated.  She then painted from a wheelchair.


This is the bed where Frida died in 1954.  (Her death mask in on the bed.)  She was only 47 years old.




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