Rosario Castellanos

Mexican writer (1925-1974)

Rosario Castellanos Figueroa (Spanish pronunciation: [roˈsaɾjo kasteˈʝanos]; 25 May 1925 – 7 August 1974) was a Mexican poet and author. She was one of Mexico's most important literary voices in the last century. Throughout her life, she wrote eloquently about issues of cultural and gender oppression, and her work has influenced Mexican feminist theory and cultural studies. Though she died young, she opened the door of Mexican literature to women, and left a legacy that still resonates today.

Tomb of Rosario Castellanos in the Panteon Civil de Dolores cemetery in Mexico City



Another Way to Be: Selected Works of Rosario Castellanos


Translated by Myralyn Allgood

"In Praise of Friendship" (1964)

  • The word "love" is used far too frequently and far too imprecisely. It moves heaven and earth, it illuminates the purest of pages, but oh, with what ease it is pressed into service to mask the most infamous of passions, the vilest selfishness, and even crime!
  • A young man needs friends to serve as guides and counselors, confidantes and role-models. The mature man is capable of meaningful undertakings only when his actions are undergirded by the support of others. And the elderly seek strength in their time of weakness and, ultimately, in their struggle for survival, in companionship and affection. Even if there is love at first sight, there is no friendship that does not demand time and space to reach its perfection. The ancient proverb states, and rightly so, that two friends cannot truly know each other without having first shared a bag of salt.
  • Friends dislike being apart. Separation, says Emily Dickinson, is all the Hell we need. Each shared moment is precious. And the only ones who can remember the hour of loneliness are those who survive it.
  • He who has a friend lavishes benevolent actions on those around him.
  • Veneration of our parents is seen in this light, not as an obligation difficult to fulfill, but rather as an easy inclination of our affection. We gratefully remember what we owe them: our existence, thanks to the love they expressed to one another, the care with which they watched our growth; and the gentleness and skill with which they guided us toward independence, responsibility, and the ability to make wise choices.
  • Children, because of their helplessness, evoke our tenderness. But we must give them more than that: a vigilant sense of responsibility, an exquisite equilibrium between the extremes of exercising our authority and respecting their freedom. There is no greater satisfaction than a child who, when grown and at the age of accountability, is able to forgive us.
  • Outside the family circle, friendship evolves into good will. In the workplace this allows us to manage without despotism, and to follow orders without resentment. In society we will learn to intervene without violence, but also without servility. And we will be able to look beyond the geographical borders of our own country, our customs, our race, our religious beliefs, and our political ideology to see that humanity is an attribute of all mankind.

"Man of Destiny" (1970)

  • You may not be interested in hearing it, but I want to talk about it. To talk about them, rather: the forty-five years (exactly the number I have lived) as of today. I don't want to hide anything or misrepresent the date, like one covers up a gray hair or a wrinkle. No, each day has been worth what it has cost, and much more.
  • Possibilities were available to me, doors were opened to me, all because of one government official's concept of justice and the consistency of his desire to see the law equally applied. I refer to Lázaro Cárdenas.

"Women's Lib, Here" (1970)

  • The march, as you know, was not only to express their dissatisfaction but also to begin a strike against household chores-those jobs so sui generis, so unique that they are only noticed when left undone
  • Of course, there have been commentaries. And, of course, the gamut of these commentaries has been exactly what one might expect. From foolish outbursts and impudent plays on words to the rending of garments in the face of this new apocalyptic sign that heralds the decadence and perhaps even the death of our civilization and culture.
  • I warn you that we Mexican women are taking due note of what is happening to our northern cousins and making ready for the day it becomes necessary for us.

"Genesis of an Ambassador" (1971)

  • I've been at this long enough to realize that my column is like a mirror-a little mirror to which each Saturday I pose the question of who is the most marvelous woman on the planet.
  • I tried what all children try in their desire to be noticed: tantrums and every sort of illness I could dream up. But since these were not successful, I found myself obliged to seek other means. And so it was that I came to write and publish my first verses. At ten years of age I was already perfectly installed as a poetess.
  • I can say with Amado Nervo that "I loved and was loved and the sun caressed my face." But all of that happened in the School of Philosophy and Letters, in the halls that led from one classroom to another, from a lesson poorly noted, from a tutorial en route to a professional degree.
  • in giving birth to Gabriel, I gave birth to myself as a mother-a role for which I was unprepared but which I try to carry out as best I can. Mother and poetess do not rhyme, but they go together rather well.
  • I have confidence not so much in my own abilities as in the generosity of everyone else.

The selected poems of Rosario Castellanos

  • Hablo no por la boca de mis heridas.
    • I do not speak through the mouth of my wounds.
  • Hechizada, contemplo el milagro de estar/como en el centro puro de un diamante.
    • Spellbound, I contemplate the miracle of being/as at the pure center of a diamond.
  • Nadie está solo. Nadie.
    • No one is alone. No one.
  • ¡Cómo canta la tierra cuando gira!/Canta la ligereza de su vuelo,/su libertad, su gracia, su alegría.
    • How the earth sings as it spins!/Sings the lightness of its flight,/its freedom, its grace, its joy.
  • no te bebas de un sorbo la alegría.
    • don't drain the cup of joy in a single sip.
  • No es posible sino soñar, morir,/soñar que no morimos/y, a veces, un instante, despertar.
    • All we can do is dream, or die,/dream that we do not die/and, at times, for a moment, wake.
  • palabras que los vientos dispersan como pétalos
    • Words that the winds disperse like flowers
  • Heme aquí, ya al final, y todavía/no sé qué cara le daré a la muerte.
    • Here I am now, at the end, and I still/don't know how I'll face death.
  • sonríe ante un amanecer sin nadie.
    • smiles before a dawn with no one else.
  • ¿Qué se hace a la hora de morir? ¿Se vuelve/la cara a la pared?/¿Se agarra por los hombros al que está cerca y oye?/¿Se echa uno a correr, como el que tiene/las ropas incendiadas, para alcanzar el fin?
    • What does one do when it comes time to die? Turn/one's face to the wall?/Grab the shoulders of the person who is closest, who listens?/Does one break into a run, like a man whose clothing/is on fire, and make a dash to the finish?
  • El otro. Con el otro/la humanidad, el diálogo, la poesía, comienzan.
    • The other. With the other/humanity, dialogue, poetry, begin.
  • Lo que soñó la tierra/es visible en el árbol.
    • What the earth dreamt/is written in the tree.
  • ternura, la palabra pequeña, familiar/que cabía en mi boca.
    • tenderness, the small familiar word/that fits exactly in my mouth.
  • Adiós para la tierra que en mi torno bailaba.
    • Goodbye to the earth that danced around me.
  • mi corazón, lugar de las hogueras,/y mi cuerpo que siempre me acompaña.
    • my heart, site of bonfires,/and the body that accompanies me always.
  • He venido, feliz como los ríos,/cantando bajo un cielo de sauces y de álamos/hasta este mar de amor hermoso y grande./Yo ya no espero, vivo.
    • I have come happy as a river,/singing beneath a sky of willows and poplars/to this large, beautiful sea of love./I no longer wait, I live.

Ciudad Real (1960)


Short story collection, translated from the Spanish by Robert S. Rudder and Gloria Chacón de Arjona as City of Kings (1993)

  • El idioma salía de sus labios, como debe salir de todo labio humano, enrojecido de vergüenza. Y Rominka, al arrancarse la costra de sus pecados, lloraba. Porque duele quedar desnudo.
    • Words rolled forth from her lips, as they should from every human lip, red with shame. And as Rominka pulled the crust off her sins, she cried. Because it hurts to be left naked.
    • "La tregua" ("The Truce")
  • El viento de las alturas huía graznando lúgubremente. Un sol desteñido, frío, asaeteaba aquella colina estéril.
    • The wind fled into the heights, shrieking mournfully. A washed-out, cold sun shot its arrows down upon that barren hill.
    • "La tregua" ("The Truce")

"La suerte de Teodoro Méndez Acubal" ("The Luck of Teodoro Méndez Acúbal")

  • La seguridad de su vida era tan frágil que había bastado la cara de un chamula, vista al través de un cristal, para hacerla añicos.
    • His own sense of security was so fragile that the face of a chamula, seen through a pane of glass, was enough to shatter it to pieces.
  • la visión turbia como si sus entrañas estuvieran latiendo en medio de las cejas.
    • his vision clouded, as if his heart were beating right in the middle of his forehead.
  • don Agustín, que no tenía afición por la copa ni por el tabaco, que había guardado rigurosamente la continencia, era esclavo de un vicio: la conversación. Furtivo, acechaba los diálogos en los portales, en el mercado, en la misma catedral. Don Agustín era el primero en enterarse de los chismes, en adivinar los escándalos y se desvivía por recibir confidencias, por ser depositario de secretos y servir intrigas.
    • Don Agustín, who had no taste for liquor or tobacco, who had rigorously abstained from carnal pleasures, was a slave to one vice: conversation. He hovered around the town squares, the marketplace, even the Cathedral to trap people into conversation. Don Agustín was the first to dig up any gossip and to uncover scandal, and he lived to have others confide in him, to be the depository of secrets and to provoke intrigues.
  • Su silencio le producía vergüenza, como si callar fuera burlarse de los otros. Y como un castigo inmediato crecía, junto a la vergüenza, una sensación de soledad. Teodoro era un hombre aparte, amordazado por un secreto.
    • His silence made him feel ashamed, as if by keeping quiet he was mocking the others. And like a punishment there grew, alongside his shame, a feeling of loneliness. Teodoro was a man set apart, silenced by a secret.

Quotes about Rosario Castellanos

  • (who would you suggest we should be reading more among the women poets, especially in Latin America?) Well, she died already, but in Mexico, there was a poet called Rosario Castellanos. She was very good.
  • we see the surprising similarities between the renowned Mexican poet Rosario Castellanos and the young Peruvian poet Giovanna Pollarolo. The lyrical voices in this section subvert and rebel against routine; they speak about it as if it were a prison. The poets rebel through language which casts a light on and makes of their everyday lives a battlefield where objects become the signifiers of disorder and of liberty.
    • Marjorie Agosín Introduction to These Are Not Sweet Girls: Poetry by Latin American Women (2000)
  • Castellanos is one of the most brilliant writers of the last century, but when the Latin American boom in literature resounded in the United States, it was only the male voices that were heard.
  • the Life/Death/Life forces are part of our own nature, an inner authority that knows the steps, knows the dance of Life and Death. It is composed of the parts of ourselves who know when something can, should, and must be born and when it must die. It is a deep teacher if we can only learn its tempo. Rosario Castellanos, the Mexican mystic and ecstatic poet, writes about surrender to the forces that govern life and death: “... dadme la muerte que me falta .../give me the death I need . . .” Poets understand that there is nothing of value without death.
  • The brilliant Mexican Rosario Castellanos combines a philosophical outlook with a well-grounded historical perspective in both novels and poems, in which she employs complex striking imagery, as in "Daily Round of the Spinster," another treatment of the theme of the childless woman. A profound student of women's lives, she suggests, as in "Meditation at the Threshold," that the solution, not yet found, requires "Another way to be human and free./ Another way to be." Her powerful utterance opened the way to a new generation of women poets born after 1937, in different countries, but all with a clear apprehension of the contemporary woman's situation...
    • Angel Flores and Kate Flores, Introduction to The Defiant Muse: Hispanic Feminist Poems (1986)
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