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Can a woman be the muse of poetry for over 300 years?

Her 17th Century contemporaries called her "The Tenth Muse;" and up to now, one of the best Spanish Language poetesses that is worthy of that epithet, is Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.

Juana de Asbaje y Ramirez de Santillana, her original name, was born on November 12, 1651, in the Hacienda of San Miguel Nepantla, then part of the Virreinato de la Nueva España (New Spain,) today State of Mexico.

Determined to study, she would recur to the cruelty of cutting off her hair until she learned what she wanted.
Since she was a child she showed and intense interest towards her studies and literature, that was encouraged by her maternal grandfather, Don Pedro Ramirez. She spent her first years with him, and he played an important roll in her early education, for she came into contact with letters and sciences thanks to his library, which was very rich for those times.

Juana composed a Loa (praise,) small dramatic poem, for the festivity of Corpus Christy, when she was barely eight years old. When she was nine, living already in Mexico City, she mastered Latin, after scarcely 20 lessons.

These credentials helped her entrance into the court of the Viceroy Sebastian of Toledo, as a lady-in-waiting to the Viceroy's wife, Leonor Maria Carreto. Her talent, beauty, and personality provided her with great popularity.

When she was a child she would beg her mother to dress her like a boy so she could go the University. Obviously, her mother never agreed.
The Viceroy Marquis of Mancera himself, prepared an exam for young Juana. Forty University professors and doctors in arts and science were impressed by 17 year old Juana.

In order to entirely devote herself to studying, Juana decided to embrace a monastic life; so in 1667, she entered a Carmelite convent, which severity she couldn't bear longer than three months. Later, she took Holy Orders in the Convent of St. Jerome, where she remained until her death.

While taking care of her sick sisters during the epidemic of 1695, she fell a victim of the malign fever. She died on April 17, in Mexico City.

Stubborn men, blaming women for no reason, neglecting being the cause of that which you accuse;
First verse of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz's "Redondillas."

Her literary production included works in prose like "Carta Atenagorica," (The Athenagoric Letter) a profound essay about theological and doctrine concepts, and her famous "Respuesta a Sor Filotea," (Reply to Sister Phylotea of the Cross - 1691,) in which she stood up for Mexican women's right to education and also upheld their right to disagree.

Out from her genius sprouted numerous praises, dramatic carols, sacramental plays, and two entertaining plays: "Los Empeños de una Casa," (The Trials of a Noble House - 1683,) and "Amor es más Laberinto," (Love, The Greater Labyrinth - 1688.)

She was the accountant and filing clerk for the Jeromite Convent and declined the post of abbess which was offered to her twice.
But Sor Juana's creative gift reaches its top in poetry, beautifully rooted in the baroque Spanish Lyric. Don Marcelino Menendez Pelayo stated about her exalted poetic production: "Sor Juana's verses of profane love are among the most gentle and delicate that have come out of a woman's pen."

Her greatest wish in life was to study, "to be less ignorant," and to achieve it, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz had to break the compelled barriers for women of the time.

Feminism's active predecessor, critic partaker, religious and profane, Sor Juana excelled not only as a literati and studious, for she sold all her earthy possessions when she was asked to, including her worthy library of more than 4,000 volumes, and gave her money away to the poor.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the best of the latin spirit.

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