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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Frida Kahlo Sneakers Helping Improve Lot of Mexican Indians

By Helena Lozano

MEXICO CITY – The legacy of Frida Kahlo and her spirit of tireless struggle are leaving their mark 56 years after her death on a Mexican indigenous community, where the quality of life of local inhabitants is improving daily thanks to the sale of sneakers based on the famed 20th-century painter.

A community of Mazahua Indians who reside in the highlands of the central state of Mexico sees in the “Frida’s Footsteps” project – launched in 2008 by U.S. sporting goods brand Converse and Mexico’s Group to Promote Education and Sustainable Development – an opportunity for economic and social development.

“The Frida’s Footsteps project joins in the struggle of this tireless and determined woman who gave her life and her work to Mexico, donating the proceeds from the sale of the shoes ... to provide opportunities to these neediest of women and families,” Carina de los Santos, social responsibility director at Converse Mexico, told Efe Thursday.

“Frida Intima” is the second line of sneakers that Converse is selling as part of the project, whose goal is to assist Mazahua communities by building cisterns and basins to collect rainwater in the town of San Felipe del Progreso.

The project is also contributing to the region by funding socioeconomic studies to evaluate water and soil conditions and transportation improvements to facilitate the sale of products and animal breeding.

The second edition of this collection, which went on sale last week, includes models known as “Isoldita Linda,” “El sol y la vida” and “Con amor, Pita y Olga.”

“Isoldita Linda” is an off-white-colored design that is based on a letter than Frida wrote in 1940 to her niece Isolda from a hospital in San Francisco. Kahlo’s initials and the seal of Coyaocan, the Mexico City borough where the artist was born, are found on the shoe’s sole.

The dark brown “El sol y la vida” is a model that represents two of the elements that Kahlo most cherished, portrayed and treasured in her work – the sun and light. Frida’s initials are located on the tip of the shoe, while a green-colored sun and the artist’s signature are located on one side.

“Con amor, Pita y Olga” is the most representative model, according to Santos, because it is a replica of sneakers that the artist herself made in 1948. The shoes feature a Chinese dragon and a depiction of a medal that two of her closest friends, Pita Amor and Olga Tamayo, had given her.

“Frida is a woman who was a fighter and who inspired us to continue that same struggle and that same effort within our communities. We also feel tremendous gratitude because we’re bettering ourselves thanks to her art,” Graciela Cristobal, a Mazahua woman, said.

Last year, the Frida’s Footsteps project benefited 35 families, roughly 100 people, and is expected to help improve the lives of another 35 families this year.

Converse, meanwhile, also is carrying out the Pintando Pasos initiative to benefit the Mixtec Indian people of the southern state of Oaxaca. A total of 13 Mixtec artists are contributing to that project by painting sneakers with traditional motifs.

Kahlo (1907-1954) employed vibrant colors in her work and her style was influenced in part by Mexico’s indigenous cultures.

A fervent communist, her art was characterized on the one hand by a sense of rebellion against the social and moral conventions of her time, her longing for freedom and her love of her homeland.

It was also influenced by the physical pain she suffered, first as a result of contracting polio at a young age and later from the horrific injuries she suffered in a bus-trolley car collision.

Those themes can be found in her most representative works – among them “El Marxismo dara salud a los enfermos” (Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick), “Arbol de la esperanza, mantente firme” (Tree of Hope, Stay Strong), “La cama volando” (The Flying Bed) and “Las dos Fridas” (The Two Fridas).

Despite her pain, she left behind not an image of suffering but of feminine strength and constant struggle, Cristobal said. EFE

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