The painter was a member of the political group known as "Los Cachuchas," named after the peaked cloth caps they wore as a sign of subversion against the rigid dress code of the period.
At school, Frida was a member of the political group known as "Los Cachuchas," named after the peaked cloth caps they wore as a sign of subversion against the rigid dress code of the period. Although the "membership" of the faction was somewhat informal, general consensus suggests that there were 9 key members: Alejandro Gómez Arias (1906–90), José Gómez Robleda (1904–87), Manuel González Ramírez (1904–79), Carmen Jaime, Frida Kahlo (1907–54), Miguel N. Lira (1905–61), Agustín Lira (no relation to Miguel), Jesús Ríos Ibañez y Valle, and Alfonso Villa.
In his "Recuerdos de un preparatoriano de siempre" (Memories of an Everyday High School Student) from 1982, González Ramírez recalls: "We, 'Los Cachuchas,' were anarchically happy, and we spent our ingenuity writing verses, lighting rockets, and studying in our own way. Did I say studying? It would be a bit pious to say that we were studying in those days. We actually devoured books on a variety of subjects, but especially literature." However, whether they focused on their schoolwork or not, almost all of "Los Cachuchas" went on to successful careers in their respective professions, from law (González Ramírez), politics (Gómez Arias), and medicine (Gómez Robleda), to literature (Lira), and the arts (Kahlo, Salas), although some are more celebrated than others.
The group inevitably went their separate ways, but Gómez Arias, González Ramírez, Kahlo, and Lira maintained a close friendship. Years later, Lira hung a large board in his library, on which he compiled short poems and dedications from friends who visited him after his return to his native Tlaxcala. The wooden board contains 14 legible inscriptions—as well as at least 3 that have faded with time—from between 1948 and 1950. Of these, the only "Los Cachuchas" signatures are those of Kahlo and González Ramírez.
Lira ended up with at least 4 of her smaller works on paper, as well as 2 important paintings: her 1927 portrait, and an unfinished oil painting now known as "Pancho Villa and Adelita." Apart from one of the watercolors, which was originally gifted to Salas, Kahlo gave all these works to Lira herself. In 1982, the Tlaxcala Institute of Culture acquired them from Lira's family.
These 2 works by Kahlo appear to demonstrate that her group of friends led an active social life in cafés, just like the famous Mexican literary groups of the period: the Stridentists and the Contemporaries. Kahlo and her friends were undoubtedly influenced by the activities and lifestyles of their intellectual predecessors at the Preparatory School (Torres Bodet, Pellicer, and Villaurrutia, among others), who were still meeting in public in the late 1920s. Whether real or imaginary, those works that dream of a "Café de Los Cachuchas" explore the (lost) possibility of a rich social, cultural, and intellectual life in the heart of the city, as remembered from the town of Coyoacán.
Text: James Oles