You Are Always With Me: Letters to Mama – Frida Kahlo

Frida1I was in search of a quick read and saw this book which I had added previously to my list of books to buy. In my neighborhood, there is a building with a mural dedicated to Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and as I walk past each time, I think of the fact that so many years after her death, she is still revered by millions of people both in the United States and in her native Mexico. In September, 1925, Frida was a passenger on a bus with her boyfriend Alejandro Gómez Arias. Their bus collided with a street car and left Kahlo with devastating injuries.  She suffered broken bones in several parts of her body and the accident displaced three vertebrae in her back.  She never fully recovered from the accident and was plagued with constant pain until her death on July 13, 1954.  On August 21, 1929, she married Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and accompanied him to the United States, first landing in San Francisco, while he worked as painter.  Over course of her time living in the United States and later visiting, she received medical treatment for the lingering effects of the 1925 bus accident.  She never failed to write home to her mother whom she loved deeply.  Those letters have been translated into English and are composed here to show readers the very intimate relationship between mother and daughter.

It should be noted that it is strictly Frida speaking here.  There are no letters from her mother. And it appears that Frida did most of the writing to her parents Wilhem and Matilde.  The letters are short and to the point but filled with love and sharp insight by Friday regarding her surroundings.  However, throughout the letters, her health and the couple’s earnings are always a main topic.  After leaving San Francisco, Frida and Diego later visited New York City.  Her observations are interesting and as a native New Yorker, I can say that they are not far off the mark.  She adores New York but is not blind to the many faults that one can see in America.  These words are more than eighty years old but much of what she says remains true.  Perhaps Frida knew something then that we fail to understand now.

Although the book is quite short, there is a wealth of interesting comments and thoughts presented by Frida.  She was a keen observer of people and found ways to adapt to the environment she found herself in.  Diego comes and goes during the story and the letters reveal no trace of the tension that existed during their marriage on more than one occasion.  Whether she was shielding her mother or herself we cannot say for sure.  Her mother Matilde, died on September 15, 1932, before Kahlo’s marriage to River went literally to hell and back.

I plan next to read an extensive biography of Frida  to truly understand the woman behind the fame.  Her letters have provided insight into who she was and what she believed but surely, only the tip of the iceberg.  If you like Frida Kahlo and want to know more of her personal side, these letters to her mother are exactly what you need.


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