Last Thursday, an audio clip thought to be the only known recording to Frida Kahlo’s voice surfaced and went viral. This website, and many others, wrote about it. The discovery would have been a breakthrough for historians, who have no recorded samples of the artist and activist’s speech; at the National Sound Library of Mexico, director Pável Granados called Kahlo’s voice “a great enigma, a never-ending search.” But if the news sounded too good to be true, it was—those who knew Kahlo before her death are saying there’s no way it’s her.
In a statement, Kahlo’s descendants, who are perennially at odds with the plethora of ways on Frida Kahlo’s likeness is used, said: “As far as Kahlo family knows, there are no records of Frida’s voice.” Two of Kahlo’s former students also told the Guardian that they did not think the voice on the recording was hers. One of them said:
“The thing is, I don’t recognise the voice,” [Guillermo Monroy Becerril] said. “The first time I met her, I noticed she was a woman with a very sweet, cheerful voice … Frida’s real voice was very lively, charming, and cheery. It wasn’t serious or smooth or delicate … it was crystal clear.”
According to the initial press release, the clip was apparently made for the pilot episode of the 1955 radio show El Bachiller, and contains a woman’s voice reading an essay Kahlo wrote about Diego Rivera. But Kahlo died in 1954, and was in increasingly bad health and housebound in the years leading up to her death, so the timing here is suspect. A Mexican actor named Amparo Garrido has stepped up and says she’s almost certain she made the recording.
“I feel it’s me and have for a while. I recorded various things for El Bachiller … I’m almost absolutely sure that I recorded this one.”
Garrido was also the voice of Snow White, in the 1960s version of the Disney movie dubbed in Spanish. I’m no expert, but I have probably seen hundreds of American movies and cartoons dubbed in Spanish in my lifetime, and when I listened to the supposed Kahlo recording, the lilt of the woman’s voice sounded extremely familiar—with the same meticulous pace of a professional voice actor.
But I’ll defer to the people who actually knew Kahlo here. If they say it’s not her, they’re probably right.
Frida Kahlo’s mythology is so powerful that the promise of a new likeness was tantalizing. If there’s any audio recordings of her on this earth, I’m sure someone will find one eventually, as we still cannot seem to get enough of her image—and her life.