Frida and "Los Cachuchas"

Instituto Tlaxcalteca de la Cultura

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.

Historical Context
In 1922, at the age of 14, Frida Kahlo joined the prestigious Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (National Preparatory School), located in the old San Ildefonso College—an intellectual hub in the heart of Mexico City. Kahlo was one of only 35 women among 2,000 students enrolled at the school: a testament not only to her talent, but also to her father's ambition for her academic success.

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.

The intimate message from Kahlo asking her "soul brother" not to forget "Cachucha No. 9" includes a small self-portrait with her hair pulled back and tucked under a cloth cap. Although there is no date, the inscription is probably from August 17, 1948, when many others also signed the board.

Frida and "Los Cachuchas"
Following her tragic accident on September 17, 1925, and practically confined to her parents' home in Coyoacán, Kahlo began to paint in earnest. She continued her relationship with "Los Cachuchas," but it was no doubt difficult for her to come to terms with the end of her promising academic career. Her closest friends visited her during her convalescence, so it is no surprise that she gave them some of her first works as gifts. Gómez Arias, Kahlo's best friend, received her first self-portrait (from 1926) and perhaps also 2 watercolors.

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.

Credits: Story

Text: James Oles

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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