As an elderly Chavela Vargas sings to Frida Kahlo, played by Selma Hayek in the film about the artist, there’s an added poignancy to the scene. In real life, years ago, they had reportedly been lovers. The Spanish-speaking world – and particularly Mexico, where she spent most of her life – loved Vargas too, and her face and voice were everywhere when her death at the age of 93 was announced in August 2012. Some compared her to Edith Piaf.
“I have had to fight to be me and for respect, and I’m proud of the stigma. To bear the name of a lesbian. I’m not bragging, I’m not preaching, but do not deny it. I had to face up to society, the Church, which says that gays are damned… It’s absurd. How can you judge a being who is born this way. I did not study to be a lesbian. No one showed me how to be one. I was born this way. Since I first opened my eyes to the world. I’ve never slept with a man. Never.” El Pais