By Ana Santos
“The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.” -Frida Kahlo
Dear Frida Kahlo,
I’ve never really liked the idea of words; to me they seem so naked and contrary to drawings and paintings that are beautiful mixtures of colors and secrets only I know and understand. Art is what I do because I need to. If I never drew the things that pass through my mind and let them out, I’d go loca. I am terrified of writing, but in my effort to let words flow without hesitation, I will reflect on my life and I will write to you.
I was born to humble parents in the northern most part of Mexico. Juarez, a city where walls were decorated by the cholos and the grass is sprinkled with trash and the seeds of dreams. And although in their lives the people saw crimes, I look back at these scenes and see nothing other than unfortunate inspirations–unfortunate inspirations, beautiful to paint, but not to live.
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.” -Frida Kahlo
I often think of how things would have been if nothing had ever changed. Just imagine me growing up in Juarez. My father, no matter how much he tried looking into my eyes as an aid from all his demons, would have lost himself in the alcohol that intoxicated his realities away. Mi dulce madre would have found her role as a mother and wife a lost cause. I would have been a chola with my big gold hoop earrings, flannel shirt buttoned only at the collar, wearing winged eyeliner and red lipstick and my favorite accessory a joint straight from my jefe’s cartel. Or maybe I would have been a ghost invisible to the cholas as I hugged tight to the walls dividing me from the better path, my father’s eyes, my mother’s cause.
Everything moves and revolves. My parents must have loved me too much to leave their beloved country in search of a new and unexpected life in Gringolandia. All I know is that now I wear flannels but not buttoned up at the collar, chola-style, my father was able to banish his demons, and my mother cooks delicious meals every night. Now I have a brother and I love that kid. Yes, things do change and it is so great when they change for the better. So, once in awhile I take a step back y sonrio because my parents are inspirations to me. They are beautiful to paint and to live.
“Yo aqui en Gringolandia me paso la vida sońando con volver a México.” -Frida Kahlo
My parents often remind us life would have been different if we had stayed in Mexico. However, they never let my brother and I forget that the blood that runs through our veins is Mexican. My father painted the living room of the house we rent bright orange. I know the color reminds him of the colorful pueblo he grew up in. My house and tu casa azul, Frida, would totally get along.
In this living room is where I sit at times to listen to every childhood memory my mother and father have, to every story of every adventure, and to their silent cry every time they mention my abuelos. All these stories seem surreal like the paintings you painted, but these stories are their truest treasures. Frida, I don’t blame them for dreaming of the day they can return to the land sprinkled with trash and seeds of dreams and the neighborhoods of colorful houses being passed by su gente.
Every Sunday the phone rings in Veracruz, Mexico, in the little house shaded by big coconut and mango trees and gardens of beautiful flowers. My father’s father usually answered the phone and then one Sunday he didn’t. Three days after my sixteenth birthday I woke up to the most sorrowful cries I had ever heard. My father isn’t a lloron, but that day he received a call he never wanted to receive. The man who had worked as a carpenter and at ranchos to earn just enough pesos to give his family beans and rice and a house made by his own hands in the hopes that his family wouldn’t suffer frio or wake up to a puddle of rain on their floors, had died. My father knew the day would come but he just couldn’t cope with the pain of not being able to hold him or see him one last time. That hurt him the most. On his phone, my father kept the last voice message his father left him and from time to time he replays it as if it were his favorite song, and in a way this song brings him a little piece of Mexico.
“I was born a bitch, I was born a painter.” -Frida Kahlo
You carry yourself with such confidence and self knowledge of who you truly are and stand for. You paint yourself often because you are your own muse. You basically invented the selfie. Your studio is full of self portraits like a girl’s Instagram is full of selfies. I can’t even post a photo of myself because my confidence is so low.
I look at myself and wish I wasn’t so shy. I look at myself and don’t understand why I am the way I am. I have things to say and I can’t because I’m shushed by my own mind. The fear imprisons me and I see me and wonder if I could just be free from what I normally see, how would it be?
Frida, your attitude towards others is what I most admire. You know your own self worth, and most importantly you embrace yourself because others’ approval of you is the least of your worries. You loved every flaw in yourself and became the woman I now write to in the hopes of finding myself. Someday little by little I might get there.
“There is nothing more precious than laughter.”
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo
I have never loved and appreciated laughter more than I do now. Laughing means happiness and there is nothing more I want in life but to forever have happiness. I am so scared of sadness. To be honest, Frida, I hope I can surround myself with people who make me piss my pants every time something comes out of their mouth, rather than the kind of people who are more likely to make me insecure about pissing my pants for laughing.
Frida, the truth is I have gone through times in life that gave me an absence of light. I have looked at myself and like you, I have wanted nothing but to be left in the darkness. No psychologist can see through me the way I can. I’ve told a canvas more about me than anyone I have spoken words to.
The darkness was gloomy, but even there, I couldn’t control my laughter when I was told a corny joke, so I guess I realized that even under cloudy skies we are able to wait for the sun, the moon, and all the stars, and the golden roses that let us know we can endure anything we never thought we could.
“The most important thing for everyone in Gringolandia is to have ambition and become somebody and frankly I don’t have the least ambition to become anybody.” -Frida Kahlo
You did not have ambition to become somebody and yet I write to you because you to me are somebody. I do, however, have all the ambitions to become somebody. I won’t allow myself to daydream forever. You see, Frida, I love art and my favorite form of art is fashion. I am fascinated by the way fashion can tell stories. You yourself had much to say with your clothing. The flowy and vibrant dresses you wore hid your scars and in them you felt beautiful. Flowers on your head gave you that natural look, of course, but were also a statement sure to turn heads. The suits you so proudly flaunted let everyone know you could not care less what others believed was normal and ladylike.
My love for fashion comes from the passion I have felt about it for so long. I was five and remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I responded, an artist. I was in fourth grade and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and responded a fashion designer. I am in my junior year of high school and to this day I have the same dreams of that little girl at five and ten years old.
My mind is always thinking and producing new ideas that truly come from me, whether it be as I am falling asleep, showering, taking a math test. I lunge for a pencil and paper as quick as I can to doodle the ideas that have been ready to burst out of my mind. Tu padre believed in you even when you couldn’t find the passion to keep going. Well, I am passionate and dream because my parents always told me I could do anything I set my mind to with hard work and perseverance, a perseverance they passed down to me because they wanted for me the dreams they could not attain for themselves. Becoming somebody is the least I can do for my parents who with nickels and dimes have given me the world.
“I think poquito a poquito I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.” -Frida Kahlo
I don’t know why I told you so much. I read over these letters and wonder if they should be seen. Like I mentioned before, I think about everything a little too much. I think and think, and the more I do, the more I feel the need to just erase and submit a blank page because for the first time I let myself go, I self-expressed myself to death. I’m still alive but it kills me to know that this is going to be read. I have loved keeping these stories to myself but maybe at times I need to tell someone they way you told yours to me.
Knowing all the differences that made you and make me. Knowing the similarity of every painting, every color, every pain, every self portrait or every word said, that made you and make me. Knowing all this, made you the one I thought would listen and understand. And made me want to be una mujer and simply let go because todo estara bien. Frida I will be ok and I will live this life, not just survive it.
“Feet what do I need them for when I have wings to fly?” – Frida Kahlo
Writing to you was the hardest and most freeing thing I’ve ever done. The other day I found a picture of myself in a butterfly costume at five years old. My mother told me I wore this costume for pictures even when it wasn’t Halloween. At five years old I was putting on a pair of wings because I thought I could fly even if I knew this wasn’t physically possible. I imagined the places I could go as I flew. I realize that at five kids have imaginations beyond what any lame seventeen year old can because at five you haven’t been able to fully comprehend life. In many ways life screws us. At five we scribble on paper and believe we are artists. At five we build a fort and believe we have built the world. At five we look in the mirror and see nothing wrong.
So I will be seventeen and use my wings to fly. I will be seventeen and scribble and call it art as I fearlessly sketch, stitch, and sew my world. I will be seventeen and walk past my father’s orange walls or the street’s graffiti walls and fall in love with them the way I did back in Juarez. I will be seventeen and laugh and maybe piss my pants, or post a selfie, and continue daydreaming then making those dreams into my realities. I will be seventeen and love myself. Frida, I will write to you again someday but for now I just realized, I should be seventeen.
Ana Santos is a 17 year old junior in high school in small but beautiful, Westerly, RI. She is passionate about fashion, art, music and words. These passions are a way to get lost from a world of chaos, and the way she found herself. Ana finds that most of her inspiration to create a painting, a design or any writing piece, comes from her background, the uniqueness around her, and nature. Ana has been raised in America but born in Mexico to Mexican parents and loves her culture. Ana is bilingual and decided to incorporate that in her first essay. She has always loved the idea of words but her love for writing was truly sparked by her Creative Writing teacher. Ana wishes all her readers a wonderful read.