Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal Arts
9 minutes for reading

OH, LOVE: the Mexican passions of an affair between two communists

OH, LOVE: the Mexican passions of an affair between two communists
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Artwork: huxley.media via Photoshop


The expression «Mexican passions», which was popular among Soviet people, is hardly connected with the appearance of Latin American series on USSR television — the first of them, «Isaura: Slave Girl», was Brazilian, and the Mexican series «The Rich Also Cry» was first shown only four years later, in November 1991.

But the Mexican movie «Yesenia» back in 1975 collected a phenomenal box office — 91,000,000 viewers (this is an absolute record for the entire history of the USSR), overtaking even «Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears» and «Pirates of the 20th Century».

Then, perhaps, our acquaintance with Mexican passions took place. So the story of this couple will probably be closer and more precise to us than we can expect — Mexican passions, they are like that!




He was, as in a good TV series, the son of a noble hidalgo from a family whose history goes back to the Crusades. His mother, however, was a Converso, a Jew, forcibly converted to Christianity by Ferdinand and Isabella, but after the abolition of the Holy Inquisition, this did not bother anyone.

Especially since she was a staunch Catholic who kept a relic at home — the coals of the fire where St. Polycarp was burned. Their disappearance showed her that her son had decided on his hobbies — little Diego had taken them away to have something to paint with.

Diego Rivera was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts San Carlos in Mexico City, earned a scholarship to study in Spain, and left his native land for a long time. After studying at the Madrid Academy of Art, he went to the artistic Mecca — Paris.

He worked, exhibited, traveled to other European countries, was a close acquaintance of Picasso, married Russian artist Angelina Beloff (their only son, unfortunately, did not live long), had a parallel affair with another Russian citizen known under the pseudonym Marevna (born to her daughter, he refused to accept…).

In general, real bohemia: left his wife and mistress, went to Mexico and there married again — to the beautiful writer Marin Guadalupe. This marriage was also short-lived — the true love of Diego Rivera then was still a minor because she was 21 years younger than him…


Фрида Кало в возрасте 6 лет, 1913 год
Frida Kahlo at age 6, 1913 / dailyartmagazine.com




Her father was a German-born photographer, and her mother was half-Spanish-half-Indian. Her father gave the girl the German name Frieda. Later, to emphasize her antipathy to the country in which Hitler came to power, she threw out of her name Frieda still unreadable letter «e». Her entire life, among other things, was a chain of disasters.

The first of them caught up with the little girl at the age of 6 — a terrible disease, polio, after which all her life, one of her legs remained shorter than the other. But this is not the collapse of all hopes — Garrincha absolutely, with the same problem, became a great soccer player, and Frida is not even an athlete.

She studied at an elite school with a medical focus, practiced boxing (yes, yes!), attracted attention with her defiant behavior, constant swearing, smoked like a locomotive, drank like a horse, and did not hide bisexuality — in general, it was difficult not to notice her. Of course, noticed the girl and Diego Rivera, who first saw her back in 1921, when he was painting her school. But their story was ahead of them…

August 17, 1925, the bus in which Frida was riding crashed into a streetcar. Triple fracture of the spine, triple fracture of the pelvis, fracture of the leg in eleven places, punctured by the railing of the bus tissues of the abdomen and uterus — she just somehow miraculously survived and did not lose the ability to move, but was bedridden for months.

A year later, the girl asked her father for brushes and paints for the first time and received a unique stretcher that allowed her to paint lying down. Not surprisingly, her first painting turned out to be a self-portrait. She then became so enamored with the genre that among her 145 oil paintings, 60 self-portraits were counted.


Фрида Кало, 1931 год
Frida Kahlo, 1931 / imogencunningham.com




Meanwhile, Diego Rivera, who did not hide his left-wing beliefs all his life, joined the Mexican Communist Party and, in 1927, traveled to the USSR to observe the triumph of his ideals. He was greeted with special honor, even given the right to take a military parade and demonstration on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution from the podium of the Mausoleum.

He actively communicated with the creative contingent, and it does not remain fruitless: literary scholars believe that Erenburg’s Julio Jurenito and the famous Ostap Bender borrowed character traits of their images from him. But Rivera’s creative plans were not realized; the order to him of frescoes for the government agencies of Stalin’s USSR was constantly postponed under far-fetched pretexts, and after a year, he hurriedly left the country, in which the views of the leaders began to suit him much less than before.

In Mexico, his passion for politics moved to the side, giving space to love passion. He meets Frida Kahlo again, and they find more and more in common with each other — both artists, both communists. True, from the Mexican Communist Party, Rivera was expelled for Trotskyism (sympathy for Trotsky will still echo soon).

But the stormy romance with Frida did not interfere in any way, and in 1929, Rivera finally formalized a divorce from Marin Guadalupe and married Frida. She later said, «There were two accidents in my life: one was when the bus hit the streetcar, the other was Diego».

The comparison is not a bad one: both events are equally sudden and comparably catastrophic. However, they discovered this later… For now, their marriage can’t be shaken: both he and she are not shy about cheating, but it doesn’t cause any complications — Mexican passions, they are like that!

Everything was going well with their creative endeavors. Frida continued to write self-portraits, popularizing her not quite ordinary appearance — almost conjoined eyebrows and quite noticeable mustache, which she does not mask, and even sometimes let down a special pencil. And Rivera received more and more orders for his monumental panels, and this did not interfere with even his ideology, which he did not agree to curb in favor of rich customers.

Created by order of the Rockefeller Center mural «Man at the Crossroads», the customer did not accept — interfered with the depicted in its heart Lenin, connecting the hands of workers. The customer’s demand to replace Lenin with any unknown person Rivera categorically rejected. The mural was destroyed, and the fee was not paid. But orders did not become less.


OH, LOVE: the Mexican passions of an affair between two communists
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera / facebook.com


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So it was no surprise that the two spouses jointly asked the president of Mexico in 1936 to grant asylum to their persecuted soulmate, Lev Trotsky. The president heeded, Trotsky arrived in Mexico and settled right into the home of his party comrades.

Their house was double, with adjoining walls, one part blue (Diego Rivera), the other pink (Frida Kahlo). They were connected by a hallway with a door always open. Nowhere could I find information about which of the houses Trotsky settled in — the blue or the pink one? And don’t ask me, «What difference does it make?» Turns out there was a difference. Mexican passions and bohemian manners worked in the most expected way — Trotsky and Frida Kahlo had an affair. Probably in pink, after all…

This house Trotsky, of course, left, although this was not the end of his troubles received from the Mexican muralists. On May 24, 1940, 25 machine gunners led by a colleague and rival of Rivera David, Alfaro Siqueiros, broke into Trotsky’s villa, pierced all the furniture, and wounded Lev Davidovich’s grandson in the leg, but he was not killed — probably not going to, just trying to find revealing documents and scare him, forcing him to leave Mexico.

Nothing succeeded — they didn’t find the documents, Trotsky didn’t get out of Mexico, and Ramon Mercader killed him there three months later. It is even strange somehow that Mercader was not a muralist (maybe they hide it?…).

Anyway, but for some reason, outraged by this particular adultery, Rivera immediately divorced Frida and closed the door between the blue and pink houses with two turns of the key.

The power of Mexican passions is often underestimated by the Mexicans themselves. Rivera’s indignation was enough only for a year — he began to beg Frida to return to him and achieved his goal, going through a lot of humiliation, in particular, concluding a new marriage contract, which refused to demand sex from his wife (it is unlikely that this was somehow observed, but the level of humiliation Diego this contract shows).

Encouraged by the reconciliation, the spouses, with renewed energy, began to create; their fame grew, and the authority in the art became unquestionable. At his first exhibition in New York, Frida sold almost all the paintings exhibited — what can more correctly testify to the success?


Фрида Кало и Диего Ривера
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera / biography.com




One thing was bad: Frida’s health, fundamentally undermined by the terrible collision of the bus and streetcar, was getting worse. Look at her painting «Broken Column» — it’s not a column, but her spine is fractured and visible to all.

In 1953, the artist’s mutilated leg was struck by gangrene and had to be taken away. At the opening of the last exhibition, Frida was brought on a hospital bed, which was put in the center of the exhibition salon. To somehow dull the pain, she drank even more than usual and resorted to drugs.

Rivera nursed her as best he could and immediately rushed home if the nurse told him that his wife was again sobbing and wanted to die, he worked, painting watercolors for sale to pay for the expensive medical care. But there is a limit to any health.

On July 13, 1954, Frida died — whether from pneumonia or an overdose — an autopsy was not conducted. Shortly before her death, she wrote in her diary: «I hope that the departure will be successful and I will not return. And here are Diego’s words about her: «July 13, 1954, was the most tragic day of my life. I lost my beloved Frida forever. Too late, I realized that the most amazing part of my life was my love for Frida».

Do you find it hard to believe in such feelings between spouses who cheated on each other left and right for decades and practically (Trotsky being the obvious exception) did not notice it? I’m afraid you don’t know Mexican passions well enough…


Фрида Кало. Сломанная колонна, 1944
Frida Kahlo. Broken Column, 1944 / wikipedia.org




It is said that before her death, Frida herself looked for the next wife for Rivera and even persuaded the famous actress Maria Felix to replace her as Diego’s wife. It seems that there was no need to persuade Diego — a year after Frida’s death, he married the writer Emma Hurtado.

He continued to create new masterpieces, fully established relations with the Communist Party, remained a Stalinist under Stalin and Khrushchev supporter under Khrushchev, as a true communist and should. In 1956 he visited the USSR again, and after his return he told about the wonderful life in the country of Soviets, where he was cured of cancer at the same time. However, a year later, he died of this very cancer, but it still happens.

Strong feelings are never wasted: their marriage turned out to be quite long-suffering, but, mostly happy, you can’t really fight — you can’t really make up, and that’s so nice! Mexican passions are not exaggerated, not fake, not harmful in themselves — it’s just a different tradition, not like ours, but well entitled to exist.

But the intensity of their emotions can be felt in their art. Look at their paintings, and you will feel how everything is burning, foaming, and splashing, how it is impossible not to feel the emotional pressure when looking at these paintings. So, you should not laugh at Mexican passions. Probably, you should not be envious either, but you can live like this and consider your life happy and delight even people with absolutely different life principles with your creativity.


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