Our third day in Mexico City was dedicated to exploring Coyoacan. One of its biggest attractions is the Casa Azul, the Blue House where the legendary painter Frida Kahlo was born, lived and eventually, died in. The house was turned into the Museo Frida Kahlo in 1958, four years after her death.
The Museum is open to the public on all days except Mondays. In order to save time, we bought tickets online ahead of our trip at boletosfridakahlo.org. Visitors are able to choose the date and time of visit and can present themselves a short while before the appointed time for admission. Children under 6 are free.
Our visit was scheduled for 1030 am on a Tuesday morning. We reached Coyoacan shortly before 10 am and walked around for a bit before returning to Casa Azul. We joined a long line of people waiting with reservations, while another line formed in the opposite direction for those waiting to buy tickets. There were visitors from various parts of the world. Some, like us, going for the first time and others were returning to explore a second or third time.
A short while after 1030 am, those with reservations were asked to come forward, tickets were examined and we were allowed through the front portal. A small office to the right of the entrance was where we had to park our daybags. The museum offers videoguides that cost 80 MXN per person, but to pay with a credit card, we had to show two forms of ID. This landed us in a bit of a quandry but we had sufficient cash on hand for payment. Videotaping is not allowed inside the museum and neither is flash photography. In fact, we had to pay an extra 30 MXN to take photos inside the building.
Frida Kahlo is probably the most notable woman painter in Latin America. Born to a Hungarian-German father and an Oaxacan mother, Frida was the third of four daughters. Afflicted by polio at age six, which left her short and weak in the right leg, she endured much teasing and bullying as a child. At the age of 18, she met with a severe accident when a bus she was traveling in was hit by a streetcar. It shattered many bones, left her spinal cord damaged and created difficulties with childbearing later on. She underwent multiple surgeries to help correct her injuries and was in constant pain. She was forced to wear a corset to help stabilise her spine.
A year after her accident, she met and married Diego Rivera, the famous muralist. He influenced her growth as a painter in many ways. He also encouraged her transition from western to indigenous clothing, which she went on to adopt with much pride. The couple was married twice but each time the relationship was marred by multiple infidelities on both sides and a lot of heartbreak for Frida.
Frida’s paintings brought out the realities of her life: pain on a physical, mental and emotional level is captured well and is a constant theme. There were self-portraits showcasing both her vulnerability as well as her resilience. She painted often about being broken, her infertility as well as life, both still and alive. Her home, is as full of colors of a deep palette, as her vivid paintings. The kitchen where the food was cooked using the old fashioned wood burning stoves shows her deep love for her indigenous roots. Her studio was filled with a lot of light from large windows and yet the gloom of her constant pain and disability lingers. The bed in which she lay for so many years looked comfortable and yet had been far from being relaxing and more likely confining, in many ways. Her barebones corset and crutches stand in grim contrast to the rich shades of her Tehuacan skirts, blouses and adornments. The gardens outside her home were lush with plants, shade-giving trees and water features.
The whole tour lasted about 2 hours. And I thought it was time well spent. We met people who saw her as an eminent painter and thought leader of her time. Several times in our travels we saw Frida-Diego represented in one form or another. Yet there were others who felt she took advantage of her life and times and became popular with no real talent of her own. No matter which way one perceives Frida, the truth is that she was a unique woman with an extraordinary story to tell! And that no matter how far one travels, one always comes back home!! As she did, each time!
Here are a few photos from our visit to the Casa Azul, the Museo Frida Kahlo.