Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in the house of her parents, known as the Blue House or Casa Azul in a small suburb of Mexico City. During Art School I had a tendency to copy Van Gogh paintings and occassionally Degas as we were instructed by our professor to develope technical skills. We did everything by hand and sitting for hours together in high ceilinged rooms that never had consistent tempuratures. I neatly printed all my essays for Art School. Although I could type 100 words a minute I didn't like white out. I read a book of letters between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh and a biography of Frida Kahlo. These two artitsts spoke to me.
I didn't actually see a Frida Kahlo painting on the trip only drawings. I would later at MOMA. Her somber surrealistic portraits rarely smiling. Her father had been a photographer and she had grown up tinting them as was the fashion at the time. She had initially wanted to be a doctor but an accident where she was hit by a tram and subsequent health problems she became a self taught artist. I and a friend visited her house together in the spring of 1991.
We took a bus on a Mexican bus-line out of Albuquerque to Jaurez a six hour bus ride. It was cheaper to take the old school bus than the Grey Hound to El Paso and walk over the bridge. I have heard that since that these types of companies don't exist anymore. Benito Jaurez was a clever Indian political activist that had over-thrown the French Maximillian the III. Hence Cinco de Mayo and his border town namesake. There where a lot of out-of-principalitied royals during that time and that unlucky pair where sent to Mexico under the French crown. Our bus pulled directly into the Jaurez station. The boarder guards jeering at us when seeing us in the bus. We had two choices, to take a train directly to Mexico city that didn't leave for eight hours or to take an immediate train to Chihauhau and through Copper Canyon. We chose the latter being young and not picky.
My impression of Mexico at the time was there are a lot of ugly mid-sized border cities that are dangerous or used mainly as cheap labor for the USA with a lot of day type tourism from across the border. Jaurez later became infamous for the disappearance of over 200 young women factory workers who are feared murdered and dumped by the police somewhere. The next normal sized cities with some charm are 8-10 hours away. Chihauhau is a city that reminded me in some respects to Albuquerque. Although an easy 12 hour drive away. I have been told they built a state of the art bowling alley there.
We both had 300 dollars cash. The bus had cost 6 dollars and our train ticket 10 dollars. We walked around the train station and each bought a bottle of water. Both being experienced travelers we had a light shoulder bag and packages of cookies. When we woke up in the first town the next morning. What a delight. The market was open and we walked around and saw the interesting sites not staged for tourists. Just a nice city with a normal market day going on. I think the town was called Los Mochas I would have to look on a map and google to figure it out. What we found interesting was a table where they had a line of severed pigs heads. Each with an expression depicting their personality at death. I remember the hotel we stayed in was an old art decco style and the floor slanted in our room on the second floor. When we re-boarded the train the next night going through this spectacular Grande Canyon of Mexico we quietly giggled together at the stops on the way to Mexico City.
Frida Kahlo's house we found by the help of a taxi driver who had never heard of her before. He got so tired of looking for the address he tried to drop us off at a random intersection but my friend refused to get out. Resigned he asked someone and we finally found the place. It was a pretty day. Few people were visiting the museum. It is as if we had the place to ourselves. Frida's little bed with her over-hanging mirror during her recovery from her terrible accident. Her tiny body casts around the room, the little Aztec statues she and Diego had made in the courtyard. The room where she had an affair with Trosky before the Russians sent spies to murder him and his wife with an Axe. After we learned we could take the subway to the Zona Rosa and stayed at a hotel called Christina and saw as many Diego Rivera murals we could. I remember one at the Belles Artes. I found Mexico City a modern city and the subway was excellent. It is a city of 20 million people and where we stayed very cosmopolitan and pretty.
Drinking water and eating once a day extending our stay. We considered never returning to our old lives. We showed up on the Mexican bus line tattered and dusty and ready to start anew as graduate nurses both wishing we were back in Mexico all summer.