Thank God it’s Frida

Frida Kahlo's studioFrida Kahlo's kitchen

 

Detail from Frida Kahlo PaintingTrotsky's desk

 

Trotsky's MausoleumMexico City Car

 

Mexico City CarTaco Gus

 

Mexico City

 

Today was a really good day, yesterday was a fascinating place but we were tired from the flight and it was hot and hard work. Friday was museum day, which in comparison to yesterday means no steps, air-conditioning and shade.

The day began with a ride on the Metro, it works, it’s cheap and it’s very busy.

We started at Frida Kahlo’s House; she lived there for many years, mainly with her husband, artist Diego Riviera and a steady stream of visitors and guests, mainly other artists and left-wing intelligentsia.

The house, her life and her art are all intertwined, she suffered serous illness and injury as a child which led to her being disabled the rest of her life, unable to have children and ultimately to dying at the age of 47. She wore traditional Mexican clothing to hide her disabilities, this developed into living a traditional Mexican life, the kitchen had only a wood stove and no attempts at modernity. Everywhere in the house the two artists left their mark, in the kitchen their names are written on the wall in what appear at first to be small dots but are actually tiny dolls house size pots. The house is coloured in typical bright Mexican colours, predominantly a rich blue with red and green details. It’s an inspiring place that I think would make an artist out of all of us.

Next stop was the house of a near neighbour and close friend of Kahlo and Rivera, Leon Trotsky. He came to Mexico in 1936 after being exiled by Stalin, who after one failed attempt on his life ultimately had him assassinated in 1940. Trotsky was assassinated by a Catalan working for Stalin; the murder weapon of choice? An ice axe. In contrast to Khalo’s vibrant house, Trotsky’s was functional and austere. A simple memorial in the garden marks where his and his wife’s ashes lay. Of the many images of his life on the wall one from 1937 stands out; 24 members of Lenin’s ruling committee of 1917 are shown, all were now dead, mainly at the hand of Stalin, except Stalin himself and Trotsky who soon would be.

Next was a very good lunch at Taco Gus – small tacos with many different fillings, four of which were vegetarian, two each proved to be just right.

Lowlight of the day was the Modern Art Museum, we’d been promised Kahlo, Rivera and other leading lights of Mexican art but the nearest to any of these was a copy of one Frida Kahlo work. The rest was poor copies of other artists, like a local art fair Rothko or Braque, and some splashes of colour with no apparent idea behind them. Did we get the wrong museum?

As the sun was slowly going down we ended the day in the top-floor bar at the Latin American Tower, a 47 story skyscraper that has taken more than a little of its design from the Empire State Building. The views however are incredible, the city is surrounded by mountains, some with snowy peaks, even from this height it goes on further than you can see. The sun slowly dipped behind the hills, the city lights came on and we enjoyed a cold Mexican craft beer.

On the way back to the hotel we walked through a small street which appeared to be a small Chinatown, all the shops and restaurants looked just as you would expect but were entirely staffed by Mexicans.

Nice little restaurant for dinner next door to the hotel, two mezcals to start. Having told our waiter we would like vegetarian he asked whether we would like crickets with our Guacamole; we politely declined.