“Your brows are on fire *insert three flame emojis here” We’ve seen this comment over and over again on Instagram, as all the SoCal ladies have been trying to step up their eyebrow game, find their perfect bold lip shade, and fashion the biggest pair of hoop earrings in town for the past couple of years. The Latino fashion staples have become mainstream.
While many who identify as Latino/a see this solely as cultural appropriation, others, such as Yolanda Garcia, owner of Casita Del Pueblo in Whittier, use this popularity of Latino cultural fashion to educate the community at her shop. “The essence of starting the store was to bring education and acceptability to the arts to the community of Whittier or the Latino community but also to bring awareness of the beauty of our culture,” Garcia says. Aside with the creation of the store, Garcia and her team began celebrations that further emphasize an aspect of Latino culture, especially on their Mexican culture. One of those events is a celebration of icon Frida Kahlo.
On July 9, Casita Del Pueblo hosted their 11th annual “Dedicated to You, Frida Kahlo” art show. An large crowd of community members, some dressed as Frida, gathered at the boutique to celebrate the Mexican artist’s birthday (Frida’s actual birth date is July 6). At this event, local artists showcase their art, vendors sell their products and designers present their creations. “We celebrate Frida Kahlo’s birthday for being a very iconic image in the community and being a mujer who had to battle a lot of barriers and challenges in creating her own staple in the community of the art world,” Garcia says.
Walking into the boutique during the event is like walking into Frida heaven, if such a glorious realm existed. Frida earrings, Frida bottle openers, Frida automotive fresheners, Frida hand mirrors, Frida nail stick-ons, Frida kitchen aprons, even Frida shot glasses to toast Frida (¡Que viva Frida! ¡Viva!). Frida doesn’t stop there. Next to the entrance room of the store, the main gallery was filled with art pieces related to Frida: Frida dressed as a chola, Frida dressed as a pin-up doll, Frida drawn into a tattoo design, skeletal Frida smoking a cigarette. ¡Caramba!
One piece in particular, “Viva La Frida,” depicts Frida supporting her head, which is wearing a large headdress that takes up most of the painting, with her right hand. The artist, Erica Friend, explains that the headdress is a collection of almost 20 pieces found in Frida’s still-lives, portraits and sketches. Like Garcia, Friend connects with Kahlo in several ways. One way deals with race: Frida’s dad was German, but her mom was Mexican. “Frida has always been my favorite woman artist,” the biracial Friend says. “She’s always been more extreme than a lot of other woman artists. [And] she’s from Mexico! Who doesn’t love Mexico? It’s such a vibrant culture.”
Artist Louie Galvez drew his creation from what always fascinated him as a kid: lucha libre. Through means of pins, stickers and boxed frames, luchadores of all types and colors were depicted. In several of these depictions, the wrestlers are holding a corn on the cob, a callback to that most essential of Mexican meals. Galvez and Angie, his partner who helps him assemble his art pieces and travels with him show to show, are constantly being reminded of their childhood with their art. “The corn, the raspados, the churros,” Angie says, “it all goes back to our youths growing up. [Knowing that] after school you’re going to get your elote with our moms.”
Along with the Frida fest, Garcia hopes that her boutique is able to create cultural awareness for all visitors, create accessibility for artists who chose to display their work at the shop and to create a space where people truly appreciate, value and respect Latino art. And it all goes back to Frida.
“Frida Kahlo is more than just an iconic Latino image,” said Garcia. “For me, she represents a lot more. She represents survival, she represents staying true to who you are despite what others may think of you or what society thinks you should be doing.”