Women and Adversity: Gabriela Mistral
Nobel Prize for Literature, 1945
May is National Latino Books month, so I did some research on Latin American writers. I learned that Gabriela Mistral, a poet from Chile, is the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was awarded to her in 1945.
Growing up was difficult for Gabriela because her father left the family when she was three. Since her mother was in poor health, Gabriela took a job as a teacher’s assistant when she was a teen. At 17 she fell in love with Romelio Ureta, but three years later he committed suicide, a tragedy Gabriela was never able to overcome. She dedicated herself to teaching and writing and became a lay member of the Franciscan order of the Catholic faith, which influenced her writing.
She is self-taught, passed necessary examination tests and became a college professor, cultural minister and diplomat. She moved to the U.S. and taught at Barnard, Middlebury and Vassar colleges. Her writing is highly emotional with themes of betrayal, love, sorrow and recovery. She wrote about the difficult path women had to take to succeed and about her heritage and the Latin-American experience. Her birth name was Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, but she adopted her penname because of her admiration for poets Gabriele D’Annuzio and Frederic Mistral.
“Sonetos de la Muerte” (“Death Sonnets”) is a 1914 collection of poems that won Gabriela a Chilean prize and recognition as a serious writer. Her most famous work is the 1922 collection of poems titled “Desolacion.” In English it means “Despair” and is based on Ureta’s suicide.
More about Sra. Mistral is at: