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Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky, a Secret Affair


Photo: fridakahlo.org

Frida Kahlo was the wife of Diego Rivera. She was a talented and professional artist, painter, while Diego was a muralist. They got married in 1929 but fidelity was inconceivable for Diego. Apparently, a doctor once diagnosed that he was not fit for monogamy. A diagnosis that he took cheerfully. Less than one year after their marriage, he had his first extramarital affair. This was the beginning of their troubled marriage with both of them getting into numerous affairs time after time.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, their wedding photo, 1929
Photo: public domain


Rivera had worked in various countries across Europe. However, his popularity reached its peak when he came back to his home country, Mexico. He deeply got involved in politics and professional activism. In fact, he was a well-known communist.

Trotsky And Political Life

Leon Trotsky addressing the troops during the Russian Civil War, 1918
Photo: public domain

Leon Trotsky, born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, was so committed to Marxists theories as a writer, ideologist, military strategist and organizer. In the 1917 Russian Revolution, he became the most influential figure in the government, of course after Lenin. A few years later, Lenin’s health began to deteriorate leading to a struggle for power between Trotsky and Joseph Stalin, the then general Secretary of the ruling party. Stalin was more ruthless and had a stronger hunger for power.

Stalin successfully ousted Trotsky from all powerful positions in the party and government after the death of Lenin in 1924. The situation relationship between the two leaders worsened in 1926 leading to Trotsky’s expulsion from the Politburo. Together with his supporters, Leon was expelled from the party the following year.

After several mysterious attempts to assassinate him, he fled Russia. He was accused of antirevolutionary activities and forced to exile in 1929. He was first sent to Turkey, then to France in 1933 and in 1935, he sought refuge in Norway. While there, he wrote The Revolution Betrayed, a book that extremely condemned the Stalin Regime. This led to his formal condemnation to death back in Moscow and the Soviet Union put pressure on the Norwegian government to put him under house arrest.

Trotsky’s Mexico Asylum and Frida Kahlo Secret Revenge Affair

Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky, Mexico
Photo: public domain


All this time, Diego Rivera closely followed the life and times of Leon Trotsky. He liked his ideals and everything he stood for. When Moscow threatened the Norwegian government with sanctions, no country was willing to offer Leon a permanent solution for fear of reprisals. Millions across the world believed in his brand of communism. He had followers, Trotskyites, who got frantic with the news of his condemnation to death and with no country ready to offer a permanent solution.

Frida Kahlo’s husband was one of them, a longtime communist who recently joined Trotsky’s bandwagon. Diego used his influence to successfully lobby the Mexican government on behalf of the Trotskys to offer him asylum in Mexico. The Trotskys gladly appreciated the gesture.

On January 9, 1937, Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia Trotsky arrived in the harbor of Tampico aboard an oil tank. At the time Diego Rivera was critically ill, hospitalized with kidney and eye problems. He did not travel to meet his refugee guests. So, the only member of the family who made it to meet the Trotskys was Frida Kahlo.

Natalia was reluctant to walk down. She had lived with threats of assassination by Stalin’s agents for nearly a decade. The welcoming entourage consisted of Communist Party members, Mexican authorities, a bunch of journalists and of course Frida representing his I’ll husband. The Trotskys walked down after they saw familiar faces and were assured of their safety.

A train carried them to The Blue House, her childhood home that they shared with Diego. Diego had changed the Blue House into a fortress. Apart from the couple, Cristina Kahlo, a few friends, and then the Trotskys and their bodyguards and chauffeurs lived there. The Trotskys would live here for two years.

Still angry after learning about her husband’s latest love affair with her younger sister Cristina Kahlo, Frida wanted to get back at Diego. She found a perfect revenge on their new guest, Leon Trotsky and immediately began to openly flirt with Trotsky. Leon Trotsky was extremely flattered by this act and it took just a few days before they started making eyes and glances at each other.

They strictly spoke English to each other. This left Natalia guessing what might have been going on. She did not understand any English, while Diego’s mastery of the language was awful. Frida Kahlo publicly called Trotsky “love” or ” sweetheart “. Of course, this was an open retaliation against the affair that was between Cristina and Diego.

Leon slipped love letters into books he shared with Frida. And by spring, they had a full fledged love affair. The love had changed from emotional to physical and the two secretly met in Cristina Kohler’s house. A house believed to have been bought for her by Diego Rivera.

Frida had intended to make Diego aware of this relationship. While Diego was an unremorseful philanderer, he had a history of flying into rage when Frida cheated on him. Natalia and Diego found out of the dalliance in July 1937 just like Frida had intended to ensure he knew.

To her surprise, he did not fight back, neither did he send away Trotsky. This does not mean that their marriage was less stormy after stints of infidelity from both partners.. The two men already had their fair share of political differences, not because of the affair though. The illicit affair ended around late July.

The Trotskys eventually moved out of The Blue House in 1939. Trotsky left behind a self portrait that Frida had dedicated to her when he moved to Avenda Viena with Natalia. Diego Rivera and Frida later separated and remarried the following year.

After an initial murder attempt, Trotsky was assassinated by Ramon Marcader, an agent sent by Stalin. He was attacked on August 20, 1940 and died in hospital the following day. Frida was panic stricken and blamed Diego for bringing Trotsky to the Mexico.

As it would later be known, Frida had earlier met the assassin in France. She was held by the police for two days, interrogated for about 12 hours and later released. Ramon was later arrested and imprisoned for 20 years. When he went back to Russia, he was named a Hero Of The Soviet Union.

Frida Kahlo’s painting of Trotsky