Pioneer in women’s folk singing in Mexico and a friend of Frida Kahlo.
“Ask me what you want, but not where I come from but where I’m going”Chavela Vargas
Chavela Vargas was not called Chavela, nor was she Mexican. But her name will always be linked to the musical history of that country that welcomed her with open arms at the age of 17 when she arrived from Costa Rica.
I first started to learn about Chavela Vargas when I went to a play in Denver called”American Mariachi“, about a group of women breaking tradition in Mexican music in the 40s and 50s and their struggles to be accepted in an all-male world.
After watching that play I sought out players and information about these women and discovered Chavela Vargas. A bold progressive woman who dressed like a man and loved woman, she was very out of place in the super-macho world of ranchero, banda, norteño, and mariachi music in Mexico.
“I put on pants and the public was stunned.”
“If you are a lesbian, you are marginalized,” she said.
You could be anything in front of a microphone, but not on the street.
Life in the Clubs
She acted in clubs and cabarets, never in great theaters. Through a painter friend, she met Frida Kahlo and she sensed that she could love that kind of “little bird” that was not of this world. The painter was fascinated by her songs and they started a relationship.
“It was not from here or there, it was not old.”
“I admired her deeply,” the singer said, “but my love was much bigger than my admiration.”
In the 1990s, the Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodóvar included her music in his films and championed her work.
There is a great documentary on her life that is worth the time to watch and it helps give context to this time in the world and women singers in Mexico. The movie simply called “Chavela“
I include a few videos that illustrate her emotions and the power of her voice. Some people would say the rawness of her emotions.
Ten un buen fin de semana….