Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, January 19, 2018

Merida #2: At La Casa de Frida

I've long read and appreciated the paintings and writings of Frida Kahlo. Here in Merida, images of Frida appear everywhere. A young woman, who showed us through a restaurant/bar called Pancho's festooned with paintings of revolutionaries and Frida, called her 'the first lady of Mexico'.

So when we found a little cafe called La Casa de Frida on a side street, we stopped for refreshments. Later that night, this poem came:

At La Casa de Frida, Merida

I could sit in this small cafe for many hours,
surrounded by bright pink walls, my cafe con leche cooling.
Your face is painted on the table, on the backs of chairs.
Replicas of your paintings hang on every wall, and in the corner,
small, almost overlooked, a photograph of you and Diego,
both of you smiling.

Who knows of you today? You embraced the exotic,
put on vestidos of flowers, and adopted monkeys as your children.
Nearly unable to walk, you surrounded yourself with radicals,
argued with them, slept with them, and what?
Where did you find faithfulness, except in your art?

You painted yourself through pain,
over and over, a thousand bites, a few small nips,
rejection, repudiation, no mentors, no friends.
No one wanted anything from you, except
to lie beside you, to drink up your passion,
and then to abandon you, finally, to that small blue house.
Only Diego walks along that quiet street each day,
so many blocks to your garden, your respite,
your landscapes dwindle to arranged fruits.

When you die, sadness spreads everywhere,
for you were the first woman to paint
those lifelong connections so fragile,
between then and now, between politics and art,
between love and betrayal.
And so I sit, musing about the past and my future,
brushes forgotten, words not ever enough to say
your struggle to make art 
meant something to me.

At La Casa de Frida, Merida, January 2018