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On Thursday, September 22 at 6pm in the Emmanuel College Auditorium, Rosa Rodriguez performed Tres Vidas: a one-woman, three act production celebrating the tragic lives of painter and activist Frida Kahlo, activist Rufina Amaya, and poet Alfonsina Storni.
Backed by piano, Rodriguez performed monologues in English and songs in Spanish, featuring the women’s heartbreaking lives, beginning with Frida Kahlo.
Rodriguez entered the stage dressed in Kahlo’s signature mestizo garb, screaming the name of Diego Riviera, as Kahlo did famously. Upon noticing the audience, Rodriguez as Kahlo broke the fourth wall in order to begin her tragic tale.
Although she was born in 1907, Kahlo preferred to align the date of her birth with the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
A mestiza woman, Kahlo was born to a devout Catholic mother of indigenous Mexican heritage, and an European, Atheist-Jewish father.
Kahlo contracted Polio early in life, leaving her partially disfigured and with a limp. Later in life as a young woman, Kahlo was struck by a bus which nearly split her torso in half.
As dramatized by Rodriguez, Kahlo learned to paint while bedridden, using an inverted easel that appeared “like a horse.” Rodriguez’s Kahlo asserted that it was these times of tragedy that led her to embody the spirit of Mexico, when she refused to let the color of life wane in the face of hardships both mental and physical.
Following her performance as Frida Kahlo, Rodriguez seamlessly reappeared on stage dressed in bedclothes, screaming the names of Rufina Amaya’s lost family.
Rufina Amaya was the only survivor of the approximately 700 inhabitants of El Mozote following the El Mozote Massacre in 1981 during the El Salvadoran Civil War. After the men of the village were killed, Amaya’s children were taken from her and killed with the other village children.
In the hectic scramble that followed the collection of the women about to be raped and murdered, Amaya crawled through the other women and soldiers to the sanctuary of a tree, where she hid for hours before walking away from the abandoned village.
Rodriguez as Amaya recounted this horrific story in a manner that was heart wrenching, yet spellbinding.
Amaya reported the crimes she witnessed to United States journalists, who publicized her account in the face of gaping doubts by both the journalistic and public world. However, the exhumation of the El Mozote graves proved that her story was accurate, greatly assisting the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador.
In her third and final act Rodriguez portrayed Alfonsina Storni, an Argentine poet and women’s rights activist, with a haunting life story.
Rodriguez entered the stage, somber in dress and presence, portraying Storni at the end of her life, immediately preceding her suicide.
The act took the form of a continuous monologue in which Rodriguez recounted the tragedy of Storni’s short life.
As a young woman Storni fell in love with a married man, with whom she had a son, Alejandro. Despite having his child, she never revealed his identity to anyone. She left rural Argentina for a life of greater anonymity in the city of Buenos Aires where she wrote poetry and participated actively in the women’s rights movement through her intense feminist writings.
Plagued by depression and aggressive breast cancer accompanied by partial paralysis, Storni committed suicide, planning every detail of her death. Her final poem, “Voy a Dormir” (I’m Going to Sleep) was published just days before her death as a cryptic farewell to the international community at large.
On October 25, 1938 Storni was found dead on La Plata beach in Argentina. It is fabled, as in Rodriguez’s rendition of Storni’s death, that she walked slowly and deliberately into the ocean, letting the waves consume her until she drowned.
Rodriguez aptly and accurately portrayed the tragic lives Kahlo, Amaya and Storni with great attention to historical detail. With modest means — few props and no scenery — Rodriguez transformed the stage and herself, so that the viewer felt that they were welcomed as a confidante into the very lives of the women she portrayed.
Devon Wright is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.