Guest post by Angela Cervantes, author of Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring
The idea for my mystery novel, Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring, originated from reading a biography by Hayden Herrera about Frida Kahlo. The biography states that Frida expressed to a friend that she wanted to design a peacock ring. She even collected “little stones” for the ring. I was intrigued! Thus began my search for the ring in every photograph of Frida that I could find. When I found nothing, I wondered if Frida ever completed the ring? If so, where is it now?
My search led me to Coyoacán, Mexico to visit Frida’s home known as Casa Azul. After Frida’s death, it was converted into a museum to honor her life and art. Although I had visited the museum twice before, I went again in June 2016 with the purpose of research (sleuthing!) for my novel.
I spent two days snooping around Casa Azul, trying my best to view the museum through the lens of my novel’s young protagonist, Paloma Marquez. It was on day two that I slipped passed a tarp hanging from the back of a small cafeteria and found a locked room. Neither security guards, nor staff seemed to mind that I was meddling around and traipsing past blocked off areas, so like any good author (sleuth!) I continued my research (snooping). Finding a secret path to a locked door was an exciting plot twist. Although I couldn’t unlock the door (yep, I tried!), I used it in my novel as the setting for some scary encounters between Paloma and the “trench coat man.”
After two days of research at Casa Azul, I felt like I had what I needed for my novel, yet I also sensed that there was so much more to uncover. Someday, I’ll go back to snoop some more!
Here are some photos from my trip to hep bring Casa Azul, and maybe even Frida, herself, to life for you!
Frida Kahlo had two bedrooms: one for sleeping and the other where she could lie down and paint. I love the delicate lacy bed cover and pillow with the embroidered words, “Wake up sleeping heart.”
When Frida died, she was cremated. Frida and Diego Rivera wanted their ashes to be mixed together, but the Mexican government had other plans for Diego’s body. He was ultimately buried in Mexico’s Rotunda of Illustrious Sons in Mexico City. Frida’s ashes were placed into a pre-Columbian clay-figure that resembles a headless frog, which can be found in her second bedroom.
If you go up to the second floor of Casa Azul, you’ll find Frida’s studio. There you’ll see her wheelchair positioned in front of an easel as if Frida had just been there and stepped away for a minute. I love this room because of the light that shines though the windows. In my novel, this is the room where Tavo takes Paloma to show her one of Frida’s self-portraits. While there with Tavo, Paloma runs into the mysterious brother-sister duo, Gael and Lizzie Castillo.
Many of Frida’s elaborate dresses and headpieces are on display at Casa Azul. These dresses, shown here, were pieces that were locked up for 50 years and later discovered (along with jewelry, photographs and her medical braces and prosthetics) in 2004.
While at Casa Azul, I found a locked door behind the tiny cafeteria. I used this discovery in my novel, Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring, as the place where Paloma Marquez and Gael Castillo first encounter the trench coat man.
Casa Azul’s beautiful patio and courtyard is filled daily by tourists. People from all over the world come to visit Frida’s home, view her art and walk around the very garden Frida enjoyed. I think she’d be very happy about that.
Frida Kahlo’s bright blue Casa Azul spans almost an entire block on calle londres in Coyoacan, Mexico. Every day, there is a long line of tourists waiting to enter the museum.
This door is located on Allende Street and is dark green against the home’s bright blue or what is known in Mexico as “azul anil” believed to prevent evil from entering. In my novel, this is the door that Paloma, Lizzie and Gael use to access the museum at midnight. While at Casa Azul, I was never able to get an answer on why there’s an Argentinean-looking flag on the door along with the Mexican flag. It’s still a mystery to me!