DIEGO RIVERA -- MY ART, MY LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (WITH GLADYS MARCH)
One incident will always cloud my happy memories of Detroit. It concerned Frida; she was the chief sufferer. Three years before, in Mexico, Frida had been one of the victims in a horrible traffic accident. A bus in which she was riding had collided with a trolley car. Only five passengers in the vehicle had escaped with their lives. Frida was carried from the scene literally in pieces. Her vertebral column, her pelvis, and her left arm were fractured. Her right leg was broken in eleven places. Still worse, an iron rod had pierced her body from one side to the other, severing her matrix.
The doctors were unable to understand how she had survived. But she had not only survived, she became her lively self again. However, as a result of the accident, she would never be able to carry a baby, and the doctors warned her not to attempt to conceive.
For Frida this was a terrible psychological blow. Since the age of twelve, as a wild and precocious schoolgirl, she had been obsessed with the idea of having my baby. When asked her greatest ambition, she would announce to her flustered teachers and schoolmates, "To have a baby by Diego Rivera just as soon as I can convince him to cooperate."
Frida was not deterred by the doctors' warnings. While we were in Detroit, she became pregnant.
Her pregnancy was painful. The many women with whom Frida had made friends in Detroit, who had come to love her, did everything in their power to help her have the child. With the best of care, however, she suffered a torturous miscarriage. She became so ill that I forbade her ever to conceive again.
Nevertheless, Frida's desire to have a baby was so strong that she again risked her life by becoming pregnant three other times. Each pregnancy ended in a painful loss. But none was as acutely distressful as this first one in Detroit.
Frida's tragedy -- for such she felt her experience to be -- inspired her to paint a canvas depicting a miscarriage and expressing the sensations and emotions it gives rise to. She also painted a picture representing her own birth. Immediately thereafter, she began work on a series of masterpieces which had no precedent in the history of art -- paintings which exalted the feminine qualities of endurance to truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering. Never before had a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas as Frida did at this time in Detroit.
During Frida’s period of recovery, I occupied the greater part of my time in attempting to help migratory Mexicans, of whom several hundred then lived in Detroit, in constant dread of being deported. Native Americans were voicing resentment at these foreigners receiving welfare checks from the city. Their own needy, they said, were a heavy enough burden to carry during this time of universal bankruptcy.
There were some among my former countrymen who thought that conditions were better back in Mexico. Nostalgically, they dreamed of establishing agricultural colonies south of the Rio Grande. The task I set myself was to convince them, through a series of lectures, that a return to Mexico would not solve their problems, that having established roots in the United States, they must act with all other Americans to achieve a betterment of their economic situation.
Unfortunately, I failed in my purpose. So that they would not think I was exaggerating the difficulties of colonization in order to avoid helping them, I gave them most of the money I had earned painting the Arts Institute frescoes. With that subsidy, they returned to Mexico and established three colonies. Only one, established near Acapulco, survived. A few years later its members repaid my kindness in a unique way.