Frida Kahlo, My Chicana Heart Belongs To Another (Cue ABBA!)
Without fail, around July 6th (Frida Kahlo's birthday) or near August 26th (Frida and Diego Rivera's wedding anniversary), I'm invited to at least one or two artsy-like events celebrating the work, the life, the fill in the blank of Frida Kahlo. As a Mexican American woman who works in a creative field, I'm guessing most organizers assume I'll be interested in such Frida Fêtes, but, to be frank, such a presumption is pretty misguided. Sure, it's true that I've held a longtime fascination with Frida. But mine is not that Frida, the tortured painter from Coyoacan, Mexico, but rather la otra Frida, as in Anni "Frida" Lyngstad, the recording artist and member of the power pop band, ABBA.
Like most young girls growing up in the 1970s, I loved ABBA. But it was Frida, the dark-haired beauty of the fair-haired quartet, who intrigued me most. Through meticulous research of reputable sources (i.e. Tigerbeat, Teenbeat) I learned that ABBA Frida and I shared many a familiar bond. For one thing, we both suffered the cruel brunette fate in a world that catered to blondes, and secondly, ABBA Frida and I hailed from small towns: she, from the mining village of Ballangen, Norway and myself from the agricultural plains of Oxnard, California. Mira the startling similarities?
As ABBA's popularity flourished, so did my devotion for ABBA Frida. That is, until the late '80s, when I entered college and that other Frida entered the academic landscape. This Frida, the Mexican Frida, attacked with a vengeance. Like some gum-snapping bad girl, Mexican Frida (armed with an arsenal of mouse pads, three-ring binders, and commuter mugs all bearing her image) demanded that her presence be faithfully revered. Thou shall have no other Fridas before her. As a young Latina cum Chicana pursuing a degree in Chicana/o Studies, I quickly learned you never question or ignore Mexican Frida. But truth be told (Warning: the following confession may be deemed highly blasphemous), I just wasn't into her. By a mere side-by-side comparison, ABBA Frida was just way more appealing.
For one thing, with a simple glance over any ABBA album cover and song lyrics, one can easily conclude that ABBA Frida fully enjoyed the attributes of a loving marriage with husband and fellow band mate, Benny Andersson, whereas the paintings and personal diary of Mexican Frida clearly revealed a stormy existence tolerated with two-timing hubby and fellow artist, Diego Rivera. What self-respecting mujer would put up with that?
Secondly, ABBA Frida never looked less than totally stunning in her satin hot pants, white fedoras and seductive over-the-knee boots. Y Mexican Frida? All those layers and layers of indigenous garb made her look shapeless, stuffy. And what's with the braids? I haven't donned child-like trenzas since fourth grade Picture Day and even then I put up a fight with my mother declaring that I was already way too old for them.
But such differences between Las Fridas pale in comparison to the number one reason I reserve loyalty for ABBA Frida over Mexican Frida.
While some historians speculate that Mexican Frida intentionally added three years to her birth date to align herself with the start of the Mexican Revolution, ABBA Frida pledged her allegiance deeper. Not only did she, herself, inspire one of ABBA's best-selling singles, Fernando, but she sings lead on this, dare I say it, post-modern corrido, documenting the battle of, yes, the same Mexican Revolution.
Do you still recall the frightful night we crossed the Rio Grande?
I can see it in your eyes how proud you were to fight for freedom in this land....
If I had to do the same again, I would, my friend, Fernando.
Upon this discovery via Casey Kasem's American Top 40, I personally inducted ABBA Frida into the Honorary Hall of Chicanisma. And so, I ask, my fellow Raza, how could anyone deny such clenched-fist fervor by a modern-day Adelita broadcasting the message of our ancestor's fight for independence?