“Yo no estudio para escribir, ni menos para enseñar, sino sólo por ver si con estudiar ignoro menos”
“I don’t study to know more, but to ignore less”
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a nun, philosopher, poet, dramatist, and an exceptional writer of the Latin American Colonial period. As she refused to comply with societal gender norms, Sor Juana is considered to be one of the first women to fight for educational rights. Sor Juana’s determination to accomplish intellectual scholarship—even at the expense of censorship, mockery and humiliation–has earned her recognition and admiration around the globe.
- Born in November 12, 1651 (there is disagreement about the date), in San Miguel Nepantla, Viceroyalty of New Spain (now Mexico).
- At a very young age, Sor Juana was extremely passionate about education, “her small room was filled with books, scientific instruments and maps.” She was a self-taught persistent learner who visited regularly her grandfather’s library, where she acquired knowledge about logic, Latin and Nahuatl—the Uto-Aztecan language of the Nahuatl. Sources point out that she wrote her first poem when she was eight years old.
- Given that women were not allowed to pursue higher education, she offered to conceal her appearance so that she could attend a University, but was not allowed to do so. Still determined, Sor Juana continued to tutor herself privately.
- Sor Juana became a nun, an environment where she had access to various academic resources. There, she learned about philosophy, including: Greek logic, music, and science. As a nun, she managed to write poetry, plays, and teach music and language to children.
- In 1690, without her permission, Bishop Fernandez de Santa Cruz published a pseudonymous letter, where Sor Juana critiques a sermon by the Portuguese Jesuit preacher Antonio Vieria. Santa Cruz named the document “Letter Worthy of Athena” using the pseudonym “Sor Filotea de la Cruz,” where he also included comments condemning Sor Juana’s interest in secular studies and intellectual aptitudes.
- Sor Juana’s reply to Santa Cruz, Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz (Reply to Sor Filotea), has been praised as being amongst the first of feminist movements defending a woman’s right to education. In her reply:
- By 1694, Sor Juana experienced more challenges, as she was censored, and personal library collections were sold against her will. She died in 1695.
Excerpt from Sor Juana’s “Hombres Necios” (“You Foolish Men,” translated by Michael Smith):
Hombres necios que acusáis,
a la mujer sin razón,
sin ver que sois la ocasión,
de lo mismo que culpáis;
You Foolish Men
You foolish men who lay
the guilt on women,
not seeing you’re the cause
of the very thing you blame;
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