Women's History: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Women's History: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
via Wikipedia Commons

For Women's History Month, Chicanísima is featuring Latinas past and present who have broken barriers.

As the cardinals prepare to elect a new pope, my thoughts turn to a nun who was a rebel in her time.

Her name is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. She was born in 1651 in Mexico and became a nun in 1667 so that she could further her education.

She became a defender of women's rights and was a prolific writer and poet. Her work, "Respuesta a Sor Filotea," or "Response to Sor Filotea," defends a women's right to education and is considered the first published feminist manifesto, according to the American Academy of Poets.

Another piece of her writing, "Hombres necios," or "Foolish Men," faults men for criticizing women.

She wrote her first poem at the age of 8 and also knew Latin, Greek and Nahuatl, one of the indigenous languages of Mexico. She asked her family if she could dress as a man to be able to study at the university but they denied her. She studied on her own.

She is considered the first great poet of Latin America, according to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her sonnets also are considered some of the most beautiful in the Spanish language.

She was punished by the church for her writings and she was condemned by the Archbishop of Mexico. She was forced to give up her books and lived the end of her life in solitude.

She died in 1695 from a plague that struck her convent.

Sor Juana spoke out at a time when women were silenced but her voice today can be heard throughout the world.

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