Juana Inés de la Cruz 🔥

Juana’s legacy is so cool that she is the reason why we named our company after her nickname “la décima musa”. Another cool thing about Juana is that she is considered the first feminist of the Americas, how about that? She stands as a national icon in Mexico, in fact, her image appears on the 100 pesos bill (she used to be in the 200 pesos bill) . She is also known as “The phoenix of the Americas” and there is a Literature prize named after her:  The “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize", this is awarded each year to the female author of a novel originally published in Spanish since 1993.

Juana de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana was born on November 12, 1648 in San Miguel Nepantla, Mexico. She was revered as a prodigy during her lifetime, and was one of the most widely published writers of the 17th century.”

How this journey started? Well.. when Juana was three years old, she followed her sister to a girl’s school and she knew she wanted to learn more about it.  She asked her mom to go to school disguised as a boy, but her mother did not allow her to go. (REALLY MOM?) Since she had no access to formal education, she self-taught herself. Her grandfather had a library, she started to read everything and all the books she could get her hands on.

Unfortunately, when she was eight, her grandfather passed away. She was sent to live in Mexico City with her maternal aunt. “She composed her first poem at that age and she longed to disguise herself as a male so that she could go to University but was not given permission by her family to do so.”

She did not have other option than continue studying by herself. She studied Greek logic, she learned Nahuatl, the native language spoken by the Aztecs, one of the Mexican native civilizations. She learned Latin and when she turned 13 she started teaching Latin to young children.

“Juana became known in court as a child prodigy. The viceroy of New Spain, the Marquis Sebastian de Toledo, was impressed by her knowledge, and tested her with a barrage of 40 learned men, theologians, philosophersmathematicians, historians, poets, and other specialists. During this time at court she continued writing poems and sonnets. The Marquis’ wife, Leonor Maria Carreto impressed by Juana’s intellect, chose Juana to serve as her handmaiden.”

Her intellect and her beauty attracted men that wanted to marry her.  However given what she called her “total disinclination to marriage” and her wish “to have no fixed occupation which might curtail my freedom to study,”  Juana resigned to marry because that would mean to give up her education, wishing instead to continue her studies the only logical path for her, therefore, was to become a nun. Women in the 17th century didn’t really have an option than served their husbands or become nuns. Juana started in the order of the Discalced Carmelites, where she took her new name “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Three months later, she entered to the Convent of the Order of Saint Jerome, where she spent the rest of her life.

 Sor Juana wrote all the poetic models you can imagine. She wrote villancicos (carols), sonnets, dramas, plays, religious lyrics, love lyrics. “She drew on a vast stock of Classical, biblical, philosophical, and mythological sources. Though it is impossible to date much of her poetry, it is clear that. Her breadth of range—from the serious to the comical and the scholarly to the popular—is equally unusual for a nun.”

The viceroys left Mexico and went back to Spain and new Viceroys arrived: Thomas de la Cerda y Maria Luisa Manrique. They gave her the same treatment and they were really close. Actually Juana and Maria Luisa became friends and she used to call her “Lisi”, she also wrote poems dedicated to her. Unfortunately, they left Mexico in 1688, and Juana lost much of the protection to which she had been accustomed from the viceroys.

You see, in the Convent, Juana was able to talk with teachers, scholars and some other people from the University. She could write whatever she wanted without getting any kind of retribution, fter Sor Juana was the subject of criticism by her political and religious superiors.

In 1690, a letter of hers which criticized a well-known Jesuit sermon was published without her permission by the Bishop of Puebla, Manuel Fernandez de Santa Cruz criticizing Juana for her comments and the lack of serious religious content in her poems. “Showcasing her distinctive braveness, the now-famous “Reply to Sor Filotea” has been hailed as the first feminist manifesto, defending, among other things, a woman's right to education.”

In her critical analysis to the bishop, she championed the intellectual rights of women, advocated for women to have access to education, and defended her right to disagreement. Her fervent reply was the subject of further criticism. After this, she was censored and was stripped of her freedoms. Not only did she lose her library, which BY THE WAY had more than 4,000 books making it the largest in the whole country. She was forbidden to publish, and had to dispose of all her scientific equipment.

In 1695, a plague hit the convent. On April 17, after tending to her fellow sisters, Juana died from the disease around the age of forty-four.

Works Cited:

Engel, Keri. “Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz,Self-Taught Scholar and Poet of New Spain.” WWW.amazingwomeninhistory.com, Amazing Women in History, 24 Nov. 2020, amazingwomeninhistory.com/sor-juana-ines-de-la-cruz-self-taught-scholar-poet-spain/.

“Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz.” Edited by Poets .Org, Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 21 Nov. 2020, 7:57, poets.org/poet/sor-juana-ines-de-la-cruz.

Wills, Mathew. Sor Juana, Founding Mother of Mexican Literature, 28 June 2019, daily.jstor.org/sor-juana-founding-mother-of-mexican-literature/.