Sor Juana: Biography Of A Rebel

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is one of the most interesting figures of the 27th century. Not only for his great poetry, but also for the values ​​of rebellion, disobedience and the struggle for equality he embodied. A woman ahead of the times, who never bowed to the patterns that society tried to impose on her.
Sor Juana: biography of a rebel

The biography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is truly fascinating. Those who know her will know what we mean and, if you don’t know her yet, her story will surely surprise you. Literature, like art or any other form of knowledge, in the past was only accessible to men; nor at all, only a privileged few.

Numerous factors intervene so that a literary work can become significant and last over time. And if we add to this that, for centuries, illiteracy reigned supreme and very few women were educated, the result is a male-dominated literary production. But, as with everything, there are always exceptions. Exceptions that, in many cases, did not affect criticism, history or education, which is why even today the education system continues to reward men.

By this we do not intend to discredit the literary production of men. On the contrary, we could list a great many great male authors who deserve to be read and studied. However, we would like to underline that the academic paths foresee a very small percentage of female authors.

Sor Juana was not only a woman of letters, but her thirst for knowledge led her to excel in countless other disciplines. Beyond that, her life was anything but ordinary: she crossed the barriers imposed by her time simply because she was a woman, an intelligent woman like few others.

The early years

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was born in 1651 in the city of San Miguel de Nepantla (New Spain, current Mexico), she was the daughter of a Spanish captain and a Creole woman. Her mother, Isabel Ramírez, had six children from different relationships, but she had decided not to marry and always declared herself a single woman, a rather unusual decision at the time.

Sor Juana’s interest in literature and art emerged as early as the age of 8, when he composed a Eucharistic eulogy. A few years later he decided to study at the university, which was forbidden to women at the time, which is why he thought about dressing up as a man to take courses.

Sister Juana young

Eventually, Sor Juana dropped the idea and will study on his own. Deeply attached to her grandfather, she will begin studying alone in his library. She was a brilliant young woman with prodigious intelligence. Just think that he learned Latin in just 20 lessons. She was also very demanding of herself; every time he missed a lesson, he cut a lock of hair.

From an early age, she composed verses and most of her poetry was produced under commission. His fame grew until he reached the Marquises of Mancera, who became his patrons. Sor Juana thus found herself in an environment that favored her desire for knowledge, full of books to study and to learn from.

The progressive thinking of Sor Juana

At court he learned to play various instruments and to be interested in any form of knowledge. He devoted himself to theatrical production composing praises, plays and sacramental sonnets. Then, in 1667, she decided to change the court for the convent, and became a nun.

The convent for her was not a prison, but the ideal place to study. Sor Juana had an entire library at her disposal and received numerous gifts from influential people of the time which enabled her to acquire a certain position within the convent. She had a modest fortune and had servants, so she could devote herself fully to studying.

However, life in the convent was not as peaceful as one might expect. She received numerous criticisms from the other nuns because she was very different and, on one occasion, they even forbade her to study. Sor Juana was not a nun like the others, she wrote constantly and, at times, her own texts created problems for her. However, he always defended his personal freedom and that of women in general, showing that he had access to education and knowledge.

Talking about feminism might sound anachronistic. Yet it is also true that Sor Juana embodied in herself the values ​​of feminism: the struggle for equality, for access to knowledge, women’s freedom, etc. His theatrical production deviates from the female roles associated with beauty or discretion to which, however, it gives the value of understanding.

He criticizes those men who, faced with the beauty of a woman, rush to conquer her and, when they get tired, abandon her in dishonor. He advocated for gender equality and in one of his works a man dressed as a woman portrays the need for a change of roles.

He also vindicated the rights of American Indians and men of color in society. In his works he declares himself neutral, supporting the thesis that love is separated from the body and is of a spiritual nature. Male bodies aren’t relevant either. His poetry is deeply philosophical, he reflects on the portrait and the main topic of the love compositions is absence.

Sister Juana painting

The last few years and silence

Sor Juana was a rebel, a woman who lived beyond the patterns and constraints of her time. She became a nun to rebel against the established order, to be able to live alone and undertake a path towards knowledge. She was very critical of men and inequalities and dared to question the voice of the influential Portuguese Jesuit Antonio Vieira.

This episode was a real scandal at the time. Later he wrote a text in which the autobiographical component is present. Rich in erudite terms, Response to Sister Filotea de la Cruz is a text that claims women’s rights and the right to education.

After its publication, Sor Juana fell silent. We do not know if this silence was a choice or an imposition. In that period, in fact, she clashed several times with the Church as a result of claiming her rights as a woman in society. Eventually she devoted herself to the care of the nuns of the convent and died at the age of 43.

Octavio Paz claims that “she became a nun in order to think”. Certainly, she did not lack suitors, but like her mother, she never wanted to marry. She was a rebel in a world dominated by men.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button