It was when she joined the Mexican Communist Party in 1927 that Frida Kahlo first met Diego Rivera, a fellow artist 21 years Kahlo’s senior who soon became her mentor and husband. Kahlo’s life up until then had been a struggle due to polio as a child and a serious traffic accident as a young adult, the latter of which led to problems throughout her adult life, but she pulled through thanks to her love of art. As an adult she thrived, going on to become one of the world’s most admired painters, and Rivera was similarly celebrated. Their marriage was famously wild and unpredictable. In 1953, the year before she died, one of Kahlo’s legs was amputated due to gangrene. As she waited for the operation to take place, she wrote Rivera the following letter.
(This letter can be found in Letters of Note: Love, a compulsive collection of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and powerful letters with love at their heart. In the accompanying audiobook, Kahlo’s letter is read by the magnificent Louise Brealey. Photo of Kahlo taken by her father in 1932, via Wikipedia.)
My dear Mr. Diego,
I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.
I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you? You believe I was furious about Cristina, but today I confess that it wasn’t because of her. It was because of me and you. First of all because of me, since I’ve never been able to understand what you looked and look for, what they give you that I couldn’t. Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?
The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine. Forgive my not going to your house to say this in person, but given the circumstances and my condition, I’m not allowed to leave the room, not even to use the bathroom. It’s not my intention to make you or anyone else feel pity, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.
That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.
Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,