On July 2nd, nineteen hundred fifty four, Frida Kahlo joined a political demonstration. People gathered to protest CIA intervention in South of America, to endorse the recent and fragile Guatemalan revolution, to dissuade a US-led coup d’etat, meant—as always—to restore a conservative status quo.
Frida marched to champion the ideals she lived by.
Only her bust appears in the black and white picture. I have imagined her on a wheelchair, Diego pushing. But the frame, incomplete, gives no evidence of her actual posture. Diego’s hand rests on top of her shoulder. Rather weighs in there, as if—truly—he was supporting himself. He looks thin and old. He stares down, stares nowhere. His face empty, defeated, undone.
While Frida looks up. Eyes wide open and as gorgeous as ever. A white scarf is knotted under her chin. Unusual… I can’t help wondering why. Was she sick, afraid of catching a cold? Not in Mexico in July. Was her luscious black hair undone? The thin slice peering out is properly parted in the middle. Was it thinning out? Had she forgotten her earrings? She had been ill, bedridden, on morphine, for the last two years.
She looks up, though. A chain hangs at her neck, with a pendant. Like a knotted rope, like a cord. Her sleeves are hemmed with lace. She has bracelets at both wrists, both hands are beringed.
Her right hand makes a fist, her left holds a sign bigger than she is. Did she paint it? I believe it. It looks so much like her. A cute dove—naïve, tender, with a huge round dark eye—holds a sign on her turn, in her beak. “Por la paz,” for peace, in a flowery, curled handwriting.
“Por la paz”. I have kept this pic in a folder for decades. It is always in my mind. I have wondered how Frida could summon the strength to hold the oversized banner so high. Today I finally saw another hand, helping out from behind. Solidarity.
There’s no smile on her face. Her expression is complex and baffling. Many things have been read in it. Pain and sadness. The forecast of her imminent death. Hard to say. She’s erect and looking ahead, with eyes that have seen it all. She has seen it all, but hasn’t quit yet.
And those rings spiking her knuckles… Those rings scratch one last time at the empty air, tickling history’s impassibility. Carving out a signature, a memento, a scream.