Latin American Women Writers: The Journey to obtain a VOICE!
Mentor:Jennifer Eich, Associate Professor of Spanish Literature , Loyola Marymount University
The seventeenth-century Mexican intellectual, musician, poet, dramatist and Hieronymite nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, is recognized as the first Hispanic feminist writer as many of her secular writings challenged patriarchal ideas that oppressed women's social status in colonial Spanish American society. Twentieth-century Latin American women writers Alfonsina Storni (Argentina), Gabriela Mistral (Chile) and Rosario Castellanos (Mexico) were inspired by similar social, cultural, and literary concerns. In contrast with Sor Juana’s focus on and affirmation of a woman’s right to an education, the three contemporary authors address broader social issues and lend women in general a literary voice. Works by Storni, Mistral, and Castellanos address oppressive cultural norms still present in the 20th century and roles traditionally assigned to women. Their writings often challenge the unspoken and patriarchal rules that restrict a woman’s career choices: motherhood or a literary career. This paper studies how representative works by Storni, Mistral, and Castellanos call attention to a woman’s subordinate societal position, and increase awareness of cultural injustices assigned by gender. These three poets did so by merging poetic practices with their life experiences. Interestingly, their works also reveal how women themselves participated in their subjugation. Their works depict the evolution and complexity of women, illustrate their contemporary position of authority in society, and encourage their literal and literary daughters and granddaughters to continue the struggle. In sum, works by these four Spanish American writers—Sor Juana, Alfonsina Storni, Gabriela Mistral, and Rosario Castellanos--encourage personal, institutional, and social changes, just as the women themselves serve as models of transformation to inspire women no matter where they live, love, and work.