“I study not because I want to know more but because I want to ignore less….. ”
(Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz)
November 12 was the Birth Anniversary of the greatest female poet-writer of Mexico. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. “The Tenth Muse of Mexico”.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was born in November 12 of 1651, in the Spanish Baroque era of Mexico, when Mexico was “The New Spain” and she lived in a time difficult for women to have the rights of studying and reading.
Sor Juana was a genius, since she was a child she always had the hunger of learning everything… she was a self-taught scholar because women in that time couldn’t go to the university.
Sor Juana learned to read in secret in her maternal Grandfather’s library. She learned to read at age 3… and in secret because it was forbidden for girls. Another important thing is that she learned to write and read in Latin. Many erudites, including Ernesto de la Peña, have compared the genius of Sor Juana to Mozart’s.
Her complete name was Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana. She was an illegitimate child of Pedro Manuel de Asbaje and she was raised only by her mother, Isabel Ramirez who was a strong woman for that time.
Besides of Latin, Sor Juana also learned the Aztec language of Nahuatl and she even composed some poems in Nahuatl.
When she was an adolescent, she already knew so much about the classics (Greek and Latin) and she wanted to disguise herself as a boy because she wanted to go to the university. But she had to continue with her studies alone.
Knowing the genius of Juana Inés.. she was sent to the court of the Viceroy and she received the protection of the Vicereine Leonor Carreto.
There is a very famous incident that is now history… many men had the doubts that a young woman like Juana Inés could be so wise and erudite… so… they made a special test for her…. several erudites like theologians, philosophers, poets and jurists had a special meeting, with her, and they obligated her to answer, unprepared, many difficult questions about many scientific and literary subjects. And of course, Sor Juane, who was 17 at that time, answered all questions correctly.
(Sor Juana later she identified herself with St Catherine of Alexandria, another erudite woman who had a smiliar experience and at age 17, she was also tested by many erudite men and for that reason, Sor Juana wrote a poem dedicated to the Victory of the wisdom and erudition of St Catherine of Alexandria over the men who tested her)
To not make this post longer, hehehe, later Juana Inés had to choose between marriage or going to a convent… (There are rumors that she suffered a bad love experience in the court of the Viceroy and that is why she also wrote later many poems of delusional love) and of course, she entered to the convent because in the convent, she would have all the time that she wanted for more studying and learning.
One of her greatest poems is “Primero Sueño” (First Dream”) a philosophical-cosmic poem in which is about the eternal search of learning. “Primero Sueño” (First Dream) has been compared by Octavio Paz to to Mallarmé’s (also sophisticated poem) “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard ” and also to Luis de Góngora y Argote’s “Solitude Poems” (One of Spain’s most famous poets of the “golden century of Spanish Literature”).
“Primero Sueño” (First Dream) is one of the greatest, most difficult and most deep poems of history of Spanish literature and in this poem it has many references of the Greek and Latin literature.
And…. the bigest gift that Sor Juana Left us was her famous letter-response to the Archbishop of Mexico, Francisco de Aguiar y Seijas, who was completely against of her writings and that a woman like Juana Inpes could be an intellectual.
Sor Juana, unfortunately had many enemies who were against of her because she was erudite and her most powerful enemy was the Archbishop of Mexico.
He wrote her a letter about it… and Sor Juana, wrote her famous and powerful “response”. It is a letter of more of 50 pages but in this letter we read about the huge erudition of Sor Juana, she mentions in this letter the many historical references about the many famous women in history, literature and also in the Bible and she defended the rights of women to study and learning.
Octavio Paz, in his famous essay of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and the Traps of Faith, compared Sor Juana to “Hipatia of Alexandria” (the most famous erudite woman who had a terrible tragic death) and Octavio Paz mentioned the similarities between Sor Juana and Hipatia. Both women, in different times and era, had powerful men enemies.
Unfortunately, Sor Juana, with the threat of the church had to give up her rich and huge libraryand her studies and died two years later, at age 46.