Juana Inés de la Cruz

Juana Inés de la Cruz hwäˈnä ēnāsˈ dā lä kro͞os [key], 1651–95, Mexican poet. She is considered the greatest lyric poet of the colonial period. A beautiful and intellectually precocious girl, Juana was a favorite at the viceregal court before entering a Mexican convent at the age of 16. Forced to study outside the university, she devoted herself to amassing a fine library, and made her convent into a center of religious and social life in Mexico. Her classical erudition and her scientific curiosity led to reprimands from her superiors. The bishop of Puebla published one of her studies but—under the pseudonym of a fellow nun—criticized her for neglecting religious duties. Sor Juana answered these objections to the education of women in a spirited autobiographical letter (1691; tr. 1982) that became a classic. Her lyric poetry, mystical in inspiration and influenced by Spaniards Góngora and Calderón, won enduring fame. Her masterpiece is Primer sueño, a metaphoric interpretation of a dream and of awakening. Sor Juana sold her books and devoted her last years to the spiritual life. She died trying to help the convent victims of an epidemic.

See selected poems tr. by M. S. Peden (1985) and F. Warnke (1987); studies by O. Paz (tr. 1988) and G. Tavard (1991); critical essays ed. by S. Merrim (1991).

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