66 years after the death of Gabriela Mistral: who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in Latin America

Gabriela Mistral died on January 10, 1957. (Getty Images)

The January 10 from 1957, gabriel mistral She was leaving this world after being admitted a few days earlier to a New York hospital due to pancreatic cancer. Thus, at the age of 67, she died the first woman from Latin America and the second Latin American person to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is recognized as one of the region’s most important poetesses and as a fundamental figure in the defense of public education and the rights of children.

Gabriela Mistral —whose real name was Lucila Godoy Alcayaga— He was born in Vicuña, a city in the Norte Chico of Chili, on April 7, 1889 in a humble family. His first teacher was his older sister on his mother’s side, but due to lack of financial resources, she was unable to complete her studies.

Despite this, from 1904 he taught at different schools in the coquimbo region and in 1910 she was able to validate her knowledge at School No. 1 in Santiago de Chile and received the title of State teacher, with which she was able to teach in secondary schools.

Gabriela Mistral was born on April 7, 1889 in Vicuña, Chile. (Wikimedia Commons)
Gabriela Mistral was born on April 7, 1889 in Vicuña, Chile. (Wikimedia Commons)

At the same time, he began his literary productions in the field of poetry. Since 1904, he collaborated in different publications such as Shadows of the Serena, The Voice of Elqui de VicuñOh the coquimbo. It was in the latter that she first published a poem — “From the past”— with the pseudonym Gabriela Mistral. He chose this name in homage to two of his favorite poets, the Italian Gabriele D’Annunzio and the occitan Frederic Mistral. He also wrote in the magazine elegance, directed by Rubén Darío from Paris. And he won, in 1914, the Chilean National Poetry Prize with “death sonnets”.

A few years later, tired of the cold climate in the region, she moved to Araucanía, where she worked as director of the Temuco Girls’ High School. There she met Pablo Neruda at the age of 15 (Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basoalto). “She made me read the first big names in Russian literature that had such an influence on me,” the writer said.

After being chosen as a teacher at the Liceo de Niñas de Traiguén in October 1910, she spent more than a decade dedicated to Chilean education in Antofagasta, Los Andes, Punta Arenas, Temuco and Santiago.

Several years later, in June 1922, Gabriela Mistral was convened by the Minister of Education of MexicoJosé Vasconcelos to work in the country in the development of a new educational system and value the importance of rural education and a new way of thinking about pedagogy.

The trajectory of Gabriela Mistral is strongly marked by the defense of children’s rights and the role of public education, to such an extent that it became part of the process of reform school in Mexico. That commitment also led her to move to different countries in Europe and America, such as the United States, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico.

Gabriela Mistral is one of the most internationally recognized Latin American poets.
Gabriela Mistral is one of the most internationally recognized Latin American poets.

On December 10, 1945, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. The jury of the Swedish Academy mentioned that he was given this award for “his lyrical work that, inspired by powerful emotions, has turned his name into a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world.”

In the speech before the Swedish Academy upon receiving the award, Gabriela Mistral said: “By a chance that surpasses me, I am at this moment the direct voice of the poets of my race and the hint of the very noble Spanish and Portuguese languages. Both are happy to have been invited to live together in Nordic life, all of it assisted by its ancient folklore and poetry”.

Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral won the 1945 Nobel Prize for Literature. EFE
Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral won the 1945 Nobel Prize for Literature. EFE

By then, he had already published several of his masterpieces. “desolation”, considered his first masterpiece, was published in New York in 1922. The book brought together the poems he had written in the Coquimbito region ten years earlier.

Two years later, he appeared in Madrid “Tenderness”, a book of children’s and school poetry that recovered traditional genres for children, such as lullabies, and gave it a more austere poetics. About this work, he explained: “I wanted to do a new school poetry, because the one that is in vogue does not satisfy me; A school poetry that, not because it is a school, ceases to be poetry, that is, and more delicate than any other, deeper, more impregnated with things of the heart, more shaken by the breath of the soul..

And in 1938 public “felling”, dedicated to the Spanish children victims of the Civil War. In a section, called “Reason for this book”, he explained: “I give Tala because I have nothing else to give to the Spanish children scattered to the four winds of the world. They take the poor book from the hand of HIS Gabriela, who is a Basque mestiza, and wash Tala of her essential misery for this gesture of serving, of being only the servant of my love towards the innocent blood of Spain, which goes and It comes through the Peninsula and throughout Europe”.

He also won, among others, the Serra de las Américas prize from the Academy of American Franciscan History in Washington in 1950 and, the following year, the Chilean National Prize for Literature. In 1953 she was appointed consul in New York and also a delegate of the United Nations General Assembly.

In addition, he was an honorary doctorate from the University of Guatemala, Mills College in Oakland (California), and the University of Chile, among other universities. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and in the trans-Andean country there are many important cities that have a street, square or avenue named after her with her literary name.

"felling" It was one of the most recognized books by Gabriela Mistral.
“Tala” was one of the most recognized books by Gabriela Mistral.

Despite 66 years having passed since his death, Gabriela Mistral He is a permanently remembered figure in Latin America in general and in Chili in particular. His emblem was evoked by the young people and women who led the wave of protests unleashed in Chili in 2019 against the constitution inherited from the time of Augusto Pinochet.

“At the beginning of the 19th century, Mistral He was already leading some struggles that are still in force today in our country, such as the defense of public education, sexual diversity, feminism and equality,” he told the international agency. efe Felipe Mella, director of the emblematic cultural center Gabriela Mistral (GAM), one of the most important in the country. “She would have been involved today in all the issues and her mediating character and her gaze would be perfect for channeling citizen demands,” she asserted.

This January 10 marks the 66th anniversary of the death of Gabriela Mistral.
This January 10 marks the 66th anniversary of the death of Gabriela Mistral.

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66 years after the death of Gabriela Mistral: who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in Latin America