Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz — finding voices by Anne Key

Empowerment, Mexico, Priestess, ritual

As I prepare everything for the Sacred Tour of Mexico I am leading next week, I am researching Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. She is a name I know well, but as I dig, new pieces appear.

I had not remembered that she was born out of wedlock, listed as a “child of the church.” What an auspicious beginning for a woman who dedicated her life to the church and helped expand its view of women.

A dedicated and highly self-disciplined student,

Cruz, a youth, cut off a lock of her hair each time she failed to remember one of her Latin grammar lessons because, “It didn’t seem right to me that a head so naked of knowledge should be dressed up with hair, for knowledge is a more desirable adornment. (more here)

Her scholarly pursuits, though, brought her under constant attack. She considered her own intellect a mixed blessing:

“I thought I was fleeing myself, but — woe is me! — I brought myself with me, and brought my greatest enemy in my inclination to study, which I know not whether to take as a Heaven-sent favor or as a punishment.” (more here)

And, in forward-looking reference to Lady Gaga, she reminds her detractors that she was born this way:

“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.” (more here)

In the 1690, as her patronage waned, Sor Juana was not allowed to publish her work and she was forced to give away her library of books. She died in 1695 after caring for nuns that were stricken with the plague.

Her passionate pleas for the education of women have inspired us all. In 1988, Octavio Paz introduced her to a new generation with his book Sor Juana: Or the Traps of Faith.

And here are a few words from one of her most famous poems, Hombres Necios:

Males perverse, schooled to condemn
Women by your witless laws,
Though forsooth you are prime cause
Of that which you blame in them: (more here)

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