A Letter to Frida Kahlo

7 de abril de 2019

Querida Frida:

Mi hermana del alma y de otro tiempo.

(My soul sister from another time)

First, I would like to say I am sorry for all the pain that racked your body your entire life. I am sorry for the polio that nearly consumed you as a child, but that would continue to eat away at tus pies (your feet) for the rest of your life. I am sorry for the trolley accident, and for the pole that so maliciously found its way through your pelvis, into your 18-year-old womb, the pole that would be the only thing your barren uterus would ever hold, all hard and cold metal. I suppose metal and plaster were things that you would grow accustomed to throughout your life, anyway. I am sorry for the sickness that was in your heart, for the lurking gangrene in your leg, for the inadequacy of your spine, for all the babies that would not be and for the stormy place your mind was. I am sorry for all that the bad man, Diego, would not give you.

Sin duda (however),  I am not sorry for the person who you became because of all this. The person with eyes ablaze, con cejas como las montaña (eyebrows like mountains) that made your face into a landscape, strong, steady, and immovable como la tierra (like the Earth). Like the earth, you were solid, but this was only a cover for the momentous shifts that occurred underneath the surface, which always threatened to move everything out of place.

Mi Frida, as you can imagine, growing up with the other Mexican chicos y chicas, I became well acquainted with Catholicism. Because of this, I have known the face of La Virgen María since childhood. In the old Pedro Infante movies that my mom used to beg me to watch with her, I remember how la protagonista (the protagonist) was compared over and over to the image of the Virgin. This meant she was beautiful. I was not even Catholic, but still, there she always was. And yet, I did not know your face until high school. It was also then that I learned what a legend you really were. I thought to myself, “Here are two of the most immortalized womens’ faces in all of México and somehow I only now for the first time, meet your relentless stare, challenging me all the way from the grave. And isn’t it funny how no two women could be more different, and yet so alike?”

For example, the heart of the Virgin is an immaculate one.

When you look into the Virgin’s eyes, you know she can see deep down into your corazón (your heart). Still, she holds her hands together in prayer for your troubled soul. If the Virgin’s heart is immaculate, then yours is unforgivably dirtied. Not from all the lovers and flings, but from the way you immersed yourself in your pain, the way you defined yourself by it, trying to drink it all away, and then paint it back out on your canvas.

The Virgin has the brown eyes of a doe, soft and all-perceiving. The eyes that stare innocently into the gun of the hunter and love the hunter anyway. If the Virgin’s eyes were soft, yours were hard and challenged anyone who dared look your way.

I think they want us mexicanas to be more like the Virgin. That is to be soft, full of unquestionable goodness, and unshakeable patience. But I think they do not realize just how alike the two of you are.

Afterall, both you and La Virgen know what it is like to lose a child. And what woman knows patience better than you did, amiga, you who visited doctor after doctor, you who forgave and loved Diego again and again, you who accepted that the world offered you nothing but pain and injury, and still stared down at it, brow furrowed, brush at the ready? You once said, “I tried to drown my sorrows but the bastards learned to swim.” They did learn to swim, but you did too, over and over again. You learned how to swim until another torrent of unbearable pain swept you away and you forgot, but always learned again until that last wave hit.

I suppose I lean a little bit more towards you though, Frida, too conspicuously showing all the marks of being alive and being bad at it.

I recognize your pain in the paintings you left for me to find one day. In these same paintings, I see your strength, your courage, your suffering and I am and always will be fascinated.

I must ask you for one favor. In one of the diary entries you left behind, you command “No me llores” (Do not cry for me). I understand and I would never to think to pity you. But please, Frida, may I cry with you? I know you understand the difference.

Thank you for being who you were, mi amiga, and for teaching me that it is ok to have scars.

Un abrazo fuerte, sinceramente.

N.O.