Print

Sor (Sister) Juana Inés de la Cruz

By David Ellison

sor juana ines delacruz

 

Juana Inés was an illegitimate child and, what was far worse, a woman. Even so, she emerged as the greatest American intellect of the 17th Century. 

Juana Inés could read and write by the age of 3. At 16, she begged to masquerade as a man to attend university but had to continue to educate herself. She became a lady-in-waiting at the court of the colonial viceroy, who was so impressed with her intelligence that he convened a panel of 40 doctors of theology; philosophy, and humanities to test her. She astounded them all with the breadth of her knowledge, the depth of her thinking. 

Citing her “total disinclination to marriage” and her desire “to have no fixed occupation which might curtail my freedom to study,” Juana Inés left the court for a convent, and soon distinguished herself as a writer, philosopher, theologian, composer and poet. Her quarters, housing the continent’s largest library, became a solon, a meeting place for other artists and intellectuals. 

Sor Juana Inés unabashedly challenged church teaching and argued passionately for the rights of women: “Who has forbidden women to engage in private and individual studies? Have they not a rational soul as men do? ...I have this inclination to study and, if it is evil, I am not the one who formed me thus. I was born with it and with it I shall die.” And, “Foolish men who accuse women mindlessly...you cannot see you cause what you abuse.” 

When her defenders, the Marquis and Marquise de la Laguna, left for Spain, the bishop pounced, forcing Sor Juana Inés to cease writing, sell her library as well as her musical/mathematical instruments, and devote herself only to penance and charity. 

There may have been another reason Sor Juana became a nun: her affection for other women. She became the intimate friend of the Marquise de la Laguna, sometimes extolling her in poetry: “That you’re a woman far away is no hindrance to my love: for the soul, as you well know, distance and sex don’t count.…” And, “Let my love be ever doomed if guilty in its intent, for loving you is a crime of which I will never repent.”

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz died after ministering to her fellow nuns during a plague. Today she is featured on the Mexican 100 peso note and in a wonderful Netflix Spanish-language (with subtitles) miniseries, Juana Inés

This is a selection from Ellison’s book-in-progress: Niños Héroes: The Fascinating Stories Behind Mexican Street Names.

 

El Ojo del Lago - Home Page

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com 

 

A Busy Time At The End Of The Year For Cruz Roja (Red Cross) - February 2011
A Busy Time At The End Of The Year For Cruz Roja (Red Cross)   December 1, 2010 at Cruz Roja International Volunteers Chapala (CRIVC) General Meeting
THE TENTH MUSE— Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695)
THE TENTH MUSE— Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz  (1648-1695) By Mark Sconce msconce@gmail.com   Genius manifests itself in many ways, of course,
CHARLIE KLESTADT—Cruz Roja, and Blessings
CHARLIE KLESTADT—Cruz Roja, and Blessings By Margaret Ann Porter   Charlie and Ann Klestadt celebrated their 542nd month of marriage over dinner
“A Flickering Flame in the Dark Night”
“A Flickering Flame in the Dark Night” By Rosamaria Casas   Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the greatest writer of Mexico’s 17th century, has
Wordwise With Pithy Wit - January 2011
Wordwise With Pithy Wit By Tom Clarkson   This morning, my pal F.T. – who shared the Iraq experience with me during my third trek there – forwarded
Victoria Schmidt
  VICTORIA SCHMIDT   Column: Editor’s Page   Website:   Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007. 
Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
  ALEJANDRO GRATTAN-DOMINGUEZ   Column: Editor’s Page   Website:   Wrote/directed first movie about Mexican-Americans, Only
Moonyeen Patricia King
    MOONYEEN PATRICIA KING   Column: Profiling Tepehua   Website:   Settled in Mexico 13 years ago.  The
Ken Masson
  KEN MASSON   Column: Bridge by the Lake   Website:   Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge