Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a 17th-century nun, self-taught scholar, and acclaimed writer of the Latin American colonial period and the Hispanic Baroque. She was also a strong supporter of women’s rights.
Who Was Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz?
The intelligence and erudition of Juana Inés de la Cruz became known throughout the country during her adolescence. She began her life as a nun in 1667 so that she could study at will. After taking her vows, Sor Juana tirelessly read and wrote plays and poetry, often challenging social values and becoming one of the first defenders of women’s rights. Sor Juana is heralded by her Reply to Sor Philotea, who advocates for women’s rights to access education, and is credited as the first published feminist from the New World. She died in Mexico in 1695.
Juana Inés de la Cruz was born out of wedlock in San Miguel Nepantla, Tepetlixpa—now called Nepantla de Sor in her honor—near Mexico City, around November 12, 1651, when Mexico was still Spanish territory.
In 1667, due to her desire “to have no fixed occupation that could curtail my freedom to study”, Sor Juana began her life as a nun. She moved in 1669 to the Convent of San Gerónimo (St. Jerome) in Mexico City, where she remained cloistered for the rest of her life.
Juana had plenty of time to study and write in the convent, and she built up a large library. She also obtained the patronage of the viceroy and viceroy of New Spain, who supported her and published her works in Spain.
Sor Juana’s enduring importance and literary success is attributed in part to her mastery of the full range of poetic forms and themes of the Spanish Golden Age, and her writings display inventiveness, wit, and a wide range of knowledge. Juana used all the poetic models of her time, including sonnets and romances, drawing on a wide range of sources, secular and non-secular. Unlimited by genre, she also wrote dramatic, comic, and scholarly works, especially unusual for a nun.
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Sor Juana’s most important works include brave and intelligent women, and her famous poem, “Fool Men,” accuses men of behaving illogically when criticizing women. Her most significant poem, “First Dream,” published in 1692, is both personal and universal, recounting the soul’s search for knowledge.
Defending women’s rights
With Sor Juana’s growing popularity, however, came church disapproval: in November 1690, the Bishop of Puebla published (under the pseudonym of a nun) without her consent Sor Juana’s criticism of a 40-year-old sermon. of antiquity of a Portuguese Jesuit preacher. , and admonished Sor Juana to focus on religious studies instead of secular studies.
Sor Juana responded with dazzling self-defense. She defended the right of all women to obtain knowledge and wrote (echoing a poet and a Catholic saint), “One may well philosophize while preparing dinner,” justifying her study of secular subjects as necessary to understand theology.
death and legacy
Sor Juana died in Mexico City, Mexico, on April 17, 1695.
Today, Sor Juana stands as a national icon of Mexican identity, and her image appears on Mexican currency. She rose to new prominence in the late 20th century with the rise of feminism and women’s writing, and was officially recognized as the New World’s first published feminist.