Born Isabel Vargas Lizano in Costa Rica, Chavela Vargas (1919-2012) ran away to Mexico City in her early teens and began singing in the streets. By the 1950s, she had become a darling of the city's thriving bohemian club scene, where she challenged mainstream Mexican morals by dressing in men’s clothing while she sang songs intended for men to woo women with incredible passion – and refused to change the pronouns. This tequila drinking, cigar smoking, rabble rouser sang at Elizabeth Taylor's marriage to Mike Todd (and ran off with Ava Gardner) and lived with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in La Casa Azul for over a year. In a letter she wrote to a friend Frida the day they met, Frida said she wouldn't hesitate to take off her clothes before this "erotic lesbian" and called her "a gift from heaven." In an unforgettable scene from Julie Taymor's movie about Frida's life, Salma Hayek couldn't help but cry every timeChavela sang "La Llorona" to her. Chavela was infamous for moving audiences to tears.
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