Juana Inés de la Cruz

Mexican writer, philosopher, composer and poet

Juana Inés de la Cruz, O.S.H. (English: Joan Agnes of the Cross; 12 November 165117 April 1695), was a self-taught scholar and poet of the Baroque school, and Hieronymite nun of New Spain, known in her lifetime as "The Tenth Muse."

It always brings me more joy only to fix riches in my intellect and never my intellect fix on riches.

Quotes

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  • ¿En perseguirme, mundo, qué interesas?
    ¿En qué te ofendo, cuando sólo intento
    poner bellezas en mi entendimiento
    y no mi entendimiento en las bellezas?
    • O World, why do you wish to persecute me?
      How do I offend you, when I intend
      only to fix beauty in my intellect,
      and never my intellect fix on beauty?
      • Sonnet 146, as translated by Edith Grossman in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Selected Works (2014)
  • Yo no estimo tesoros ni riquezas;
    y así, siempre me causa más contento
    poner riquezas en mi pensamiento
    que no mi pensamiento en las riquezas.
    • I do not set store by treasures or riches;
      and therefore it always brings me more joy
      only to fix riches in my intellect
      and never my intellect fix on riches.
      • Sonnet 146, as translated by Edith Grossman in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Selected Works (2014)
        • Alternate translation: I do not value treasures or riches; it always gives me more pleasure to put wealth in my thought than thought in my wealth.
  • Hombres necios que acusáis
    A la mujer, sin razón,
    Sin ver que sois la ocasión
    De lo mismo que culpáis:
    Si con ansia sin igual
    Solicitáis su desdén
    ¿Por qué queréis que obren bien,
    Si las incitáis al mal?
    • You foolish men, who accuse
      Women without good reason,
      You are the cause of what you blame,
      Yours the guilt you deny.
      If you seek the love of women to win
      With ardor beyond compare,
      Why require them to be good,
      When 'tis you who urge their sin?
  • ¿Cuál mayor culpa ha tenido
    En una pasión errada:
    La que cae de rogada,
    O el que ruega de caído?
    ¿O cuál es más de culpar,
    Aunque cualquiera mal haga:
    La que peca por la paga,
    O el que paga por pecar?
    • In a passion that is guilty
      Who bears the greater blame:
      She who falls on being entreated
      Or he who falls to make entreaty?
      When each is guilty of sin,
      Which is the most to blame:
      She who sins for payment,
      Or he who pays for the sin?
  • ¡Qué bien se ve que eran Sabios
    en confesarse rendidos,
    que es triunfo el obedecer
    de la razón el dominio!
    • How clear it is they were wise,
      when they conceded their defeat,
      for it is an achievement to have bowed
      to the supremacy of reason!
      • "Villancico a Catarina," translated from the Spanish by Kate Flores in The Defiant Muse: Hispanic Feminist Poems (1986)
  • No se avergüenzan los Sabios
    de mirarse convencidos;
    porque saben, como Sabios,
    que su saber es finito.
    • The sages were not ashamed
      to find themselves convinced;
      for they knew, being wise,
      that their knowledge was not infinite.
      • "Villancico a Catarina," translated from the Spanish by Kate Flores in The Defiant Muse: Hispanic Feminist Poems (1986)

Quotes about Juana Inés de la Cruz

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  • Probably the first official feminist in Mexican history was Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz, who lived from 1648 to 1695. During her lifetime, she was honored as the tenth Muse of Mexico, and known through the Americas and Europe for her wit and intelligence. She argued against a sexual double standard in her famous poem, "Hombres necios" (Foolish Men): "Which has the greater/sin when burned/By the same lawless fever:/She who is amorously deceived,/Or he, the sly deceiver?/Or which deserves the sterner blame,/Though each will be a sinner:/She who becomes a whore for pay,/Or he who pays to win her?" Sor Juana argued for equality in education, but did not trust men to act as teachers. She suggested that a group of self-educated women should teach young females, instructing them not only in elementary subjects, but in literature, history, science, and theology as well.
    • Kathleen Alcalá "Against All Odds" (1992) included in The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing (2007)
  • I don't pretend to be anyone's voice. I have been very lucky to be published in Europe, and I say lucky because there are women who have been writing in Latin America since the seventeenth century, like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. The problem is that few people ever talk about them. Their work is rarely taught at the universities, there is no literary criticism on them, and they are not published, translated or distributed.
    • Isabel Allende, Interviews with Latin American writers by Marie Lise Gazarian Gautier (1989)
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, who was the first feminist on this continent
  • Her famous Reply to Sor Filotea (1693) defending her right to knowledge, is a major document in the struggle for women's intellectual independence; it was recently published in Barcelona as "The First Women's Manifesto." Sor Juana's poignant awareness of the suppressed potentialities of women makes her the first feminist of the New World and one of its greatest thus far.
    • Angel Flores and Kate Flores, Introduction to The Defiant Muse: Hispanic Feminist Poems (1986)
  • As we have seen, those inspired by divine inspiration were amazingly steadfast. To cite just one example, the Mexican nun Sor Juana de la Cruz, when chastised by her confessor for her presumption in writing verse, replied that she could not help it and could not control her ability to do so; it came naturally to her and therefore must be a gift from God. From this she reasoned that she was entitled to write verse.
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz left behind many writings and, above all, inspiration for all women, for all time.
    • Elizabeth Martinez, 500 Years of Chicana Women's History/500 Años de la Mujer Chicana (2008)
  • The story of feminist Latinas spreads across centuries and is rich in heroines who demolish the stereotype of the "passive Latin woman." The landmarks are numerous in Mexico, from the openly feminist seventeenth-century intellectual Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz, a nun, to the first feminist congress of 1911 and the suffrage movement of the 1930s.
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz became a model for my rebellion.
    • Erika Sánchez Introduction in Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir (2022)
  • Sor Juana defended her case for learned women and stated that women should be able to study if they wish. She cites learned Jewish and pagan women, as well as Christian; St. Catherine of Egypt, Ste. Gertrude, Ste. Paula, Ste. Theresa of Avila, among others. She also quotes part of the Bible in favor women's learning. She dared to argue and questioned St. Paul's meaning of 'Mulieres in ecclesia taceant, (let women be quiet in church.) Sor Juana spoke as to the wisdom of learning adding that unqualified men would be better off not studying since a little bit of learning can be dangerous in the hands of madmen. As an example, she cited the Heresiarchs, founders and leaders of a heretical sect.
    • Enriqueta Vasquez The Women of La Raza: An Epic History of Chicana / Mexican-American Peoples (2016)
  • Although Sor Juana abandoned her writing, the calibre of the body of work she left Mexico remains unparalleled. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz soared as the most enlightened daughter of the new world. She challenged the foundation of the European Christian institution in her natural law perspective and understanding of the universe. Fearless, Sor Juana left the continent a mandate regarding the rights of women to think.
    • Enriqueta Vasquez The Women of La Raza: An Epic History of Chicana / Mexican-American Peoples (2016)
  • Like other pioneer women in American history, Sor Juana Inès paved the road to education and intellectuality for women. To America, she left a vision of the woman of the future, a legacy that continues in the mind and spirit of future generations. Today, women learn and nurture the child of the true Humanity that exists within all of us. To Mexico, Sor Juana's legacy stands as the patria with a clearer vision of itself and its people; an identity that set the stage for independence. In her universal thinking, Sor Juana challenged the control and exploitation of Mexico by Spain's most archconservative institution, the Church.
    • Enriqueta Vasquez The Women of La Raza: An Epic History of Chicana / Mexican-American Peoples (2016)
  • Some of the greatest Latin American poets have been women. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Gabriela Mistral, María Sabina, and Violeta Parra are among them, but their true place in the history of poetry has yet to be fully acknowledged...Sor Juana, who was the principal poet of the Americas in the seventeenth century, fought for the right of women to write and paid with her life.
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