Stumbling Toward Enlightenment

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Remember the Ladies: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

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Sor (Sister) Juana Inés de la Cruz (12 November 1648/51 – 17 April 1695), fully Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, was a self-taught scholar, she was the septima musa, poet of the Baroque school, and nun of New Spain. Although she lived in a colonial era when Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, she is considered today a Mexican writer, and stands at the beginning of the history of Mexican literature in the Spanish language. [Wikipedia]

As a child, she begged her parents to dress her as a boy so she could attend a university. Perplexed, but supportive, they took steps to see she got the education she deserved. Sor Juana quickly became famous for her beauty, her conversation, and her beautiful lyric poetry, much of which still survives. But her beauty and intelligence were problems as well as gifts, for, as a woman, she had no options but marriage or the convent. At 15 she chose the convent, and later explained, “I became a nun, because even though I realized my state was…repugnant to my temperament, given the total disinclination I felt toward marriage, it seemed the most fitting and decent thing I could do, especially since I wished to endure my personal salvation.”

Giving into self-doubt and those who encouraged it, Sor Juana—after having written some of the best poetry ever written in Spanish—finally admitted defeat and sold her books and scientific equipment, giving the money to the poor. She died tending plague victims in 1695.

Author: barenose

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