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The Lacuna

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Mexico City is among my favorite cities in the world. I visited with friends a few years ago and it stands out as one of the most magical places I’ve had the chance to explore. One of the many spots we went to during our trip was Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s house, known as the “Blue House,” which is now a museum. Both world-renowned artists and two of Mexico’s most beloved figures, I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the colorful house where they once lived and escaping into their world.

At that point in time, almost everything I had heard about Frida and Diego was from The Lacuna, a novel by Barbara Kingsolver, which is a strange mix between fiction and non-fiction. The main character is completely fictional and there are sections at the beginning and the end of the novel that follows his life and have no connection to historical events.

Because it was a novel, I wasn’t sure as I was reading how much of the story that involved Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera was actually true. But as I walked through the museum listening to the audio tour, I learned that Kingsolver had chosen to be quite factual when it came to the major life events of these famous people. Of course, specific conversations and minute details were fabricated, but the overarching story was true.

The most interesting (and seemingly most far-fetched – yet totally true) part of the story to me was the period of time when Leon Trotsky lived with Frida and Diego. At this time, Trotsky had been exiled from Russia because of a falling out with Stalin and was convicted in absentia for treason. Fearing for his life, Mexico offered him asylum and he ended up living in the Blue House for a time. Trotsky was assassinated in the Coyoacán neighborhood of Mexico City in 1940. All of these details are woven into The Lacuna’s plot.

I read this novel many years ago and so many of the details are fuzzy, but what I do remember is that Kingsolver captures the magic of Mexico City and the over-the-top, complicated lives of Frida and Diego.

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