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322 years without the Tenth Muse

A key figure of the Hispanic-American Golden Age, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz stood up against gender discrimination and created some of the major poetry of her day
File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
17/04/2017
19:11
Newsroom
Mexico City
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Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, The Tenth Muse, was a 17th-century Mexican scholar, poetess, and dramatist who developed an unusual thirst for knowledge for a woman of her time.

The youngest of three children, Juana Inés developed an interest in the arts at a very early age. Despite women did not have access to the reading and writing culture of the time, Juana Inés learned to read at age three and cultivated her mind in her grandfather’s library in the Penoayan Manor in the State of Mexico. 

She wrote a eulogy of the Blessed Sacrament on the occasion of the Corpus Christy celebration with only eight years of age.

At age 14, she entered the Court of Vicereine Leonor Carreto, who developed a special fondness of her wit and erudition. Some scholars suggest a closer and more intimate relationship between the two, given the depth of the poetry Juana Inés dedicated to the vicereine.

Five years later, Juana Inés became a nun of the Hieronymite order in Mexico City, at the Saint Joseph’s nunnery, in an attempt to develop her studies and to perfect her writing. Her “Response to Sor Filotea” has been described as the first feminist manifesto in Latin America.

A passionate advocate of the female self-determination and the pursuit of education, Juana Inés created some of the most relevant poetry of her day.

However, ecclesiastical authorities accused her of being a mundane and rebel nun and was forced to sell her library, leave off all of her literary efforts, as well as to expiate her “sins” by writing repentance verse with her own blood as ink.

She is regarded The Tenth Muse of Mexican Letters for the quality of her extensive literary production and for her resolve in the pursuit of female self-determination during the Spanish Viceroyalty in Mexico.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz died 322 years ago, on April 17th, 1695, as a result of a fatal fever that struck the Hieronymite order in Colonial Mexico City.

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