Look what they’ve done to your good name, dear Frida. All of the recognition you sought during your short life is coming to you now that you’re almost a hundred years old. Madonna embraced you, Salma Hayek portrayed you, the feminists loved you, and now even middle-class Republican women rush to buy plastic mesh bags with your silk-screened image which women of their station wouldn’t have been caught dead carrying for any purpose other than toting vegetables home from the mercado in this country, and, in the ultimate irony, soon Converse will market a running shoe with your face on it. You’ve been commoditized, and soon you’ll outpace the Virgin of Guadalupe as the national symbol. La China Poblana knows that she’s out of the running.
Back in 1983, when Hayden Herrera’s Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo first came out, we dutifully studied the footnotes, racing to read every edition of Bertram Wolfe’s biography of Diego Rivera, just to catch the nuances. We made the pilgrimage to your house on Londres in Coyoacán, breathing in the spirit of Frida within those cobalt walls, and we made the trek multiple times. We paid homage at the ofrendas in your honor at the Museo Tamayo. And when a stray dog with a broken leg showed up at the house, we named her Frida Frida Kahlo, because she always had to be called twice. When the veterinarian gave her a silly haircut, she became a card-carrying member of a rare and little-known breed: the Patzcuaro Fish Dog. (She was finally given away, because, like her namesake, she just didn’t fit in.)
The cranky but colorful sculptor Enrique Alfèrez, my erstwhile neighbor, dismissed you as the Madonna of the times, all about style and nothing about talent, but then he also said that Diego Rivera would paint the menu of a pulqueria for the right price. Those were just his opinions, generously offered.