Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Gabriela Mistral

Gabriela Mistral


Of all the poets who have sprung from the dramatic Chilean landscape, few have achieved the worldwide recognition of the country’s first Nobel laureate, Gabriela Mistral. In spite of all the honors given her work, the person behind the poetry remains distant and somewhat mysterious to the majority of the Chileans who grow up reading her work in school. Verses such as "Todas Ibamos a Ser Reinas" (We Were All Going to be Queens) and "Dame la Mano" (Give Me Your Hand) are still widely enjoyed, but few people are aware of the more complex side of the poet’s personality, or of the difficult relationship she had with her country of birth.

Born Lucila Godoy in 1889 in the rural community of Vicuña, her early school days were marked by an episode of public humiliation which resulted in a group of classmates demeaning and ostracizing her. Teachers advised Mistral’s mother that she was mentally incapacitated and should be removed from school. Despite this advice, however, she was able to continue her education and began working as a teacher’s assistant at the age of 15.

She began writing under the pseudonym of Gabriela Mistral and was awarded the highest distinction in the Santiago Floral Games of 1914. Working as a school director in Temuco during the 1920s, she applauded the first, shy verses of a boy named Pablo Neruda.

Biographer Volodia Teitelboim (National Literature Prize 2002) speaks of her passion on the subject of the condition of women in Chile and her belief that the most effective and liberating weapon is education. Because of Mistral’s outspokenness on subjects such as the stratification of social classes and the stigmatization of single mothers, together with her provincial background, she clashed with local intellectual circles, making her an unpopular figure while she lived in Chile.

You can find the article here

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