Mexico City: Frida Kahlo’s Blue House and garden


March 23, 2020

Bird of paradise flower at Frida Kahlo’s Blue House

Before the scope of the coronavirus crisis had crystallized, my husband, daughter, foreign exchange-student daughter, and I made an early spring-break trip to Mexico City. Had we known how fast the situation would escalate at home, I don’t think we’d have dared to go. But in early March — which now seems a lifetime ago — with virtually no news of the virus in Mexico and no U.S. warnings against traveling there, we decided to carry on with the trip we’d been planning for more than a year.

Angel’s trumpets glowing against cobalt walls

And it was wonderful. Mexico City is only two hours by air from San Antonio but a world away in terms of scenery, history, and climate. Now that we’ve been home for a week and are self-isolating for the indefinite future, I plan to share the trip via a series of blog posts.

La Casa Azul

Frida portrait by Roberto Montenegro

On Day 1 we visited the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Blue House — La Casa Azul — on the corner of a residential street in the Coyoacán neighborhood. A survivor of a crippling case of polio, a debilitating streetcar accident, and a tempestuous marriage to the muralist Diego Rivera, Frida was a painter and activist who posthumously became a pop-culture icon.

The Blue House was her birthplace and childhood home, a shared marital home with Diego, and it’s where she died. Today the home-turned-museum attracts throngs of tourists. We bought tickets online for the opening time slot to avoid a wait outside the famous blue walls.

Inside those cobalt walls, we discovered a spacious courtyard lushly planted with palms, trunking yuccas, shrubs, flowering bulbs, and ivy.

Frida’s art studio and bedroom are upstairs in this basalt addition to the stuccoed house, just inside the green doors.

Clay pitchers embedded under the eaves provide nesting places for doves.

Another wall is adorned with embedded conch shells and cobalt niches.

In a shallow mosaic pool just below Frida’s studio, emerald frogs “swim” around a spouting fountain.

A photograph from 1951 shows her feeding ducks in the pool.

On the stairs to her studio, a roughly chiseled female figure kneels on the stone baluster.

View of the frog fountain and surrounding garden

In an alcove below, a folk art collection is displayed.

I love this one.

Inside the house we toured the family’s kitchen, breakfast room, bedrooms, Frida’s art studio, and gallery rooms like this one.

Diego Rivera’s The Seated Woman
Self-portrait by Frida

Frida died in her bed at the Blue House in 1954. Swathed in a scarf, her death mask lies on the canopy bed, her ashes in an urn across the room.

Back outside in the courtyard, a red stucco pyramid displays a collection of pre-Hispanic art…

…including this skull.

Cafe seating under towering yuccas

Another charming piece of pottery

Famous for her adoption and elaboration of Oaxacan traditional dress, Frida wore long peasant skirts that disguised a leg withered by polio and square-cut blouses and hairstyles of braids and flowers that instead drew attention to her upper body. In an exhibition titled Appearances Can Be Deceiving, her clothing and the corsets that supported her crippled back are displayed.

We enjoyed learning more about Frida at La Casa Azul and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be Frida and Diego for a funny photo op.

Up next: Public parks and sightseeing in Coyoacán.

Cancellations: Due to coronavirus, several events that I’ve been promoting in Digging Deeper have been cancelled or postponed:

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Early spring flowers, some are memories now


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