Love for Mexico

Frida Kahlo: Celebrating Mexicanidad March 29 2020, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler 

Today, the world knows Mexican painter Frida Kahlo as a pop culture icon whose distinctive portraits appear on everything from clothing and jewelry to handbags and shopping bags, from indoor decor and wall posters to outdoor graffiti and murals. But she wasn’t very famous during her own lifetime. So how did the woman who was once best known for being married to muralist Diego Rivera become the internationally recognized woman known for her prominent unibrow along with her thick braids piled atop her head, often decorated with flowers?

Be Fearless mural in Los Angeles
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Frida Kahlo’s Charismatic Character

It was the 2002 movie Frida, starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina, that brought international stardom to Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, as it introduced people unfamiliar with Mexican culture to the passion, pain, and sheer force of character that drove the extraordinary life of this colorful character.

And it wasn’t just that Frida loved to dress flamboyantly. As the film shows, despite her small, delicate-looking frame, Frida had an outsized personality that allowed her to overcome serious physical disabilities caused by polio and a tragic trolley accident as well as other traumas ranging from her philandering husband to a series of miscarriages that left her emotionally devastated.

Frida Kahlo as a Feminist Icon

There was another important element of Frida Kahlo’s life besides her strong personality that allowed her to persevere, despite all those setbacks.

Long before the slogan “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a motto for women who are breaking down the barriers to equality in society, Frida Kahlo persisted by channeling her pain into her artwork. It was unique, groundbreaking work that revelled in la chingada. And the fact that she created raw, honest self-portraits depicting women’s real experiences rather than just trying to capture the ideal of feminine beauty is one of the main reasons Frida is considered a feminist icon.

Super Frida!
Photo by Veroniki Thetis Chelioti on Unsplash

Frida Kahlo Celebrating Mexicanidad

Although it would take half a century after her death in 1954 for the wife of Mexico’s most famous muralist to become a symbol throughout the world of individuality, innovation, inner strength, and insistence on living life to the fullest, within Mexico, Frida Kahlo had reached the status of a cultural icon by the 1980s. And it had a lot to do with her devotion to Mexican folk culture and mexicanidad.

At a time when being “civilized” in Mexico meant adopting European standards, Frida was part of a movement to change this attitude by celebrating indigenous traditions and Chicano pride. This impulse is expressed in her artwork, which often involves pre-Columbian themes and stylistic elements like lack of perspective. But what she is most famous for is her compelling self-portraits, which often depict her wearing her customary traditional Mexican huipiles and long, embroidered skirts, abundant jewelry, and her now-famous braided hair with flowers.

Wall portrait of Frida Kahlo
Photo by DDP on Unsplash 

This favorite among many insightful  Frida Kahlo quotes highlights the way so many Mexicans love and appreciate their native country: “México está como siempre, desorganizado y dado al diablo, sólo le queda la inmensa belleza de la tierra y de los indios.”

Don't forget to check out some of the articles in Shoptezuma that celebrate Frida's life:

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Mexican Earthquakes, Resilience, and a Dog Named Frida September 17 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

With Thursday, 19 September 2019, marking the 34th anniversary of the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake, Mexicans will have another, more recent seismic event on their minds, as well. But despite the jarring coincidence of a second major earthquake rattling the city on the exact same date, the 2017 Puebla earthquake presents a different kind of story than that of a disaster made worse by government inaction and ineptitude. It’s a story of courage, hope, and resilience. And the face of that story is a heroic dog named Frida.

On Mexican Courage and Resilience in the Face of Disaster

Any earthquake is, of course, a huge tragedy for those who lose loved ones and/or homes. And the sensation of feeling the Earth below you shaking or the building you’re in swaying is pretty nerve-wracking, let alone witnessing entire concrete buildings collapsing to the ground! So the stories of people rushing in to try to help instead of running in the opposite direction in search of safety says so much about the nature of the many chilangos who did just that during the 2017 earthquake, a 7.1 quake, whose epicenter was determined to be just outside San Felipe Ayutla, Puebla, by the US Geological Survey.

Diego Luna says he was inspired by seeing Mexicans running into the danger zone to help:

A reporter from the Dallas Daily News also documented the resilience and solidarity of the Mexican people in the face of disaster and hardship, highlighting how a new generation of young Mexicans who weren’t around back in 1985 has taken it upon themselves to do whatever it takes to help their neighbors and move their country forward.  I mean, this snippet says it all: 

“’There is more courage in Mexico than in any other country I know,’ said John Womack, a historian at Harvard University and longtime expert on Mexico. ‘The resilience — strength of heart, corazon, courage — comes from family and from historically, for centuries, having to face disaster after disaster without much of a coherent state to help.’”

Volunteers moving debris in Colonia Obrera, Mexico City
Photo by ProtoplasmaKid, CC BY-SA 4.0 

Frida the Rescue Dog Goes Viral

The biggest hero to emerge from the 2017 terremoto was Frida the rescue dog. Frida became an international star after the Secretaria de Marina (SEMAR) posted this tweet about the loveable golden Labrador retriever several days before the Puebla quake, as she had been hard at work helping rescue people caught in the massive 8.2 Chiapas earthquake that had shaken much of the country on 9 September. 

Although there were other valiant rescue dogs that also helped save lives by going into dangerous situations in search of survivors, Frida was the most experienced among them. She and her handler, Israel Arauz Salinas, have even been honored with a statue in the city of Puebla along with a plaque that memorializes the pair as “symbols of the strength Mexicans can have when we decide to come together for great causes.” 

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/