Chavela’s Frida: Emancipatory Songs of Love and Pain

Tuesday Oct 17, 2017

203 Cornell Dr NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106






Phone: 505-277-4001
Website: Click to Visit

More events at UNM Art Museum

Ana Alonso-Minutti explores the figure of Frida from the eyes and voice of internationally renowned musician and LGBTQ advocate, Chavela Vargas.


University of New Mexico Art Museum, in partnership with The Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and UNM Department of Music, presents a lecture with associate professor of music and faculty affiliate of the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico, Ana Alonso-Minutti.

Born in Costa Rica, singer Chavela Vargas (1919–2012) arrived in Mexico at age 14 and in time became an international icon, especially for her performances of rancheras. Given her unusual voice timber—powerful and defiant, forceful and uncompromising—her rural campesino image, and her open queerness, Chavela challenged the socially constructed binaries assigned to gender and sexuality in conservative mid-century Mexico. While the canción ranchera, as a musical genre, was predominantly male—a man expressing dramatic feelings of love, pain, and longing to a woman—Chavela queered conventions with her ‘masculine’ and raspy voice, and her unchanged gender pronouns, assuming herself as male. Chavela met Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at a party at their Casa Azul, and she felt an instant, intense connection with Frida. Chavela later lived with them and spent countless hours in the company of Frida, singing for her while Frida painted. While their romance has been a matter of much speculation, the love and devotion Chavela had for that ‘beautiful woman’—15 years her senior—was undeniable. In this talk, I explore the figure of Frida from the eyes and voice of Chavela Vargas. Chavela called Frida a friend, a mentor, and her ‘greatest love.’ An intertextual analysis of Chavela’s rendition of ‘La Llorona’ from the film Frida (2002), starring Salma Hayek and directed by Julie Taymor, and accounts reproduced in journalistic narratives and memoirs, will reveal the layers of Chavela’s sentiments for Frida, as reflected in emancipatory songs of love and pain.