BY MONIQUE QUINTANA
When aesthetic is subversive, it is both strange and beautiful.
Mostly celebrated for her ranchera songs, such as “La Paloma Negra” and “Macorina,” the Costa Rican born Chavela Vargas’ fashion relayed a spirit of resistance. Even as a young musician in 1930s Mexíco, she challenged gender expectations through her dress, and she continued to do so until the age of 93. Her voice was brujería, and she remains an icon of Mexican aesthetic and storytelling.
It has been long rumored that she was once lovers with Frida Kahlo, and Vargas even appeared in Julie Taymor’s 2002 biopic about the painter, singing to a lamenting Frida, played by Salma Hayek. While Frida is disheveled and dressed in brightly colored garb, Vargas is cloaked in darkness, appearing ghostlike and androgynous.
As an aging woman, she cut off her hair and slicked it back. She wore black Ray Bans sunglasses and serapes and flannel shirts. She wore bandannas like scissor slits in her throat. Sometimes she wore bright red, and sometimes she was shrouded in black, and sometimes she wore black and red together, as if she was Santa Muerte, loved by those who resided with her, in the periphery of things.
Monique Quintana is a contributing fashion and beauty editor of Luna Luna and is the managing editor of the blogazine, Razorhouse. She holds an MFA in Creating Writing Fiction and her work has appeared in Huizache, Bordersenses, and the Acentos Review, amomg others. She is a member of the Central Valley Women Writers of Color collective, the Latinx Authors Collective (LACO), and she is an English teacher at Fresno City College.