Coyoacan is magical and I was fully prepared to fall in love before I ever stepped off the metro. Located in southern Mexico City, it was home to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Trotsky while in exile, and many more artists and revolutionaries. The neighborhood has this great small town vibe. Lots of folks hanging out in sidewalk cafes, murals for political parties and government campaigns, and generally people just coming and going and saying hi to each other. Started off with a cappuccino at Cafe El Jarocho before walking down to the mercado to shop and admire all the fruits and vegetables. The houses are all brimming with personality; colorful doors, overflowing gardens, brightly colored walls. We took a tour of La Casa Azul, the house Frida Kahlo grew up in and then shared with Diego Rivera. Touring the homes of artists is so different than seeing their work in museums. Frida’s home seems like a particularly strong case for seeing work in the environment it was produced. Confided to bed rest or sick for large portions of her adult life, Frida painted in bed, decorated her body casts, and created murals in her kitchen, every part of the house is covered in art. The museum was showing a temporary exhibit of Frida’s clothing, Smoke and Mirrors: Frida Kahlo’s Dresses. After years in storage the exhibit did a particularly strong job incorporating Frida’s wardrobe into a narrative about her illness, struggle to accept her infertility, and strong Mexican identity.
The personal highlight of Coyoacan was visiting Leon Trotsky’s grave and home in exile. Trotsky has inspired me as a radical, thinker, and a writer. His introduction to the phenomenal History of the Russian Revolution continues to stand as one of the most inspiring pieces of political writing. Whatever you political leanings, it’s impossible to read his account of the solidarity and commitment that linked workers, soldiers, farmers, men, women in the struggle to overthrow the czar and not feel a deep swell of hope in the possibility of humanity. Visiting his grave, much like visiting Marx, was an opportunity, in some small way, to say thank you. We stand on the shoulders of giants.
PS. I’ve already picked out my rental for my next visit. Tequila tasting on the deck, anyone?