La Mexicana y La Cubana

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, people around the United States celebrate Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month. During this month, folks celebrate the cultures of Hispanic/Latino countries.

Society started observing this celebration in 1968. It was only a week. When President Ronald Reagan took office, he lengthened it to a 30-day period starting Sept. 15. and concluding Oct. 15. On the approval of Public Law 100-402, Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month was passed into law on Aug. 19, 1988. Within this time frame, many Hispanic/Latino countries celebrate their days of independence. Día de la Raza falls on Oct. 12 too.

Two of my role models are Hispanic/Latina women: Frida Kahlo and Celia Sánchez. Both of these women had strong personalities, and are revered by many people.

Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon was born in 1907 in Coyoacán, a small suburb of Mexico City. Her father was a German Jew, and her mother was Mexican. During this time, the Mexican Revolution took place. When Kahlo was six years old, she was diagnosed with polio which left her right leg deformed. She wanted to become a doctor due to her fascination with the human body.

When she was 18, Kahlo was riding a bus, and a street car crashed into it. The accident fractured her spine, pelvis and right leg. She spent a year in the hospital. Because of the accident, Kahlo was not able to continue her studies in medicine. She began to paint during her time in the hospital. Kahlo took her paintings to a well-known artist in Mexico, Diego Rivera. Rivera took interest in Kahlo’s work, and they began to date. They married in 1929.

She continued to paint, even in times of misery. During her marriage, Kahlo had outside

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

affairs with different men and women including Leon Trotsky and Josephine Baker. Diego Rivera had several affairs with other women too, including Kahlo’s younger sister Cristina.  Many people after Kahlo’s death admired how she liberated her sexuality. Frida Kahlo died in 1954 from pneumonia at her home in Coyoacán.

Various groups of people consider Kahlo a role model. She was a feminist and kept working and selling her art, even though men in her life told her not to. Kahlo is also a model for the LGBT community because she expressed her sexuality openly. Many Mexicans, Chicanos and Chicanas admire her for her passion for her Mexican identity.

I respect Frida Kahlo because she never gave up. Even in poor circumstances, she pushed through. Kahlo also did not allow men to tell her what she could and could not do. In my opinion, Diego Rivera treated her poorly when he had affairs with other women, especially with Kahlo’s younger sister. I also admire how she was an early advocate for the LGBT population, and was open with her sexual orientation. Her artwork incorporates personal details from her life, and I like how she combines indigenous American and Christian European themes in her pieces.

I took this photo of Celia Sánchez at the Presidential Palace in Havana, Cuba
I took this photo of Celia Sánchez at the Presidential Palace in Havana, Cuba

Another Hispanic/Latina woman who I admire is Celia Sánchez, who fought alongside Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution from 1957 to 1959.

Celia Sánchez Manduley was born in 1920 in Media Luna, Oriente, Cuba. Her father was a doctor, and her mother died when she was young.

When Fulgencio Batista came into power through a coup in Cuba in 1952, Sánchez was angered and joined movements to fight against Batista’s regime. She participated in the 26 July Movement (M26J)and organized a group of people to meet the Granma ship sailing from Mexico to Cuba in 1956. Among those on the ship were Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Castro and his troops planned the Revolution in Mexico. When Castro took office in 1959, Sánchez became one of his close advisors.

Sánchez began to stimulate tourism in Cuba, she dismantled racial segregation and established the ice cream parlor Coppelia in Havana.  She named it after her favorite ballet.

She continued to assist Castro with political agendas and traveled with him to provide support to countries that had socialist governments. For example, they voyaged to Chile when Salvador Allende was in power. Some people suggest that Castro and Sánchez were lovers, but I do not believe this is true.

Sánchez passed away in 1980 from lung cancer. She was committed to Cuba, and the Cuban people highly honor her. By coincidence, the day I’m posting this article happens to be the day another leader in the Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara, was assassinated in Bolivia. Guevara and Sánchez worked together a lot during the Revolution.

I admire Celia Sánchez because of her leadership. She was ultimately the supreme leader of the Cuban Revolution. I also respect her for caring about those in need. Sánchez helped establish education and health care for the Cuban people. Sánchez was a kind spirit and had confidence. Fidel Castro trusted her so much and still misses her today.

To Celia, With devotion and thanks. Your people. This is posted on the walls of the Coppelia ice cream parlor in Havana, Cuba
To Celia,
With devotion and thanks.
Your people.
This is posted on the walls of the Coppelia ice cream parlor in Havana, Cuba
A classmate and I at Coppelia in Havana, Cuba.
A classmate and I at Coppelia in Havana, Cuba.

Both Frida Kahlo and Celia Sánchez are two women who used their strength to focus their lives. Many individuals from Mexico, Cuba and other countries look to them for inspiration. Several feminists from around the world view these two women as icons to early feminist movements. As we continue to celebrate Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, we should remember Frida Kahlo and Celia Sánchez.


3 thoughts on “La Mexicana y La Cubana

  1. This was very interesting! I’m excited that this article was written….I haven’t seem many celebrations or even information about this very special month (especially special to me and my Latino brothers and sisters)…, thank you!


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