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Sor Juana Ins de la Cruz was a self-taught scholar, poet of the Baroque school, and nun of New Spain. Although she lived in a colonial era when Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, she is considered today a Mexican writer, and stands at the beginning of the history of Mexican literature.
Sor Juana was a gifted child who hid in the hacienda chapel to read her grandfather's books from the adjoining library, something forbidden to girls. She learned how to read and write at the age of three. By age five, she could do accounts, and at age eight she composed a poem on the holy sacrament. By adolescence, she had mastered Greek logic, and at age thirteen she was teaching Latin to young children. She also learned nahuatl, and she wrote some short poems in that language.
In her time, the convent was the only refuge in which a female could properly attend to education of her mind, spirit, body and soul. Nonetheless, Sor Juana wrote literature centered on freedom. In her poem Redondillas she defends a woman's right to be respected as a human being. In Hombres necios (Stubborn men), she criticizes the sexism of the society of her time, poking fun at and revealing the hypocrisy of men who publicly condemn prostitutes, yet privately pay women to perform on them what they have just said is an abomination to God.
Sor Juana asks the sharp question in this age-old matter of the purity/whoredom split found in base male mentality: "Who sins more, she who sins for pay? Or he who pays for sin?"
Developing her themes further, she wrote a romantic comedy entitled 'Los empeos de una casa' about a brother and a sister entangled in webs of love, elucidating the themes of love and jealousy. She did not moralize, but rather, in the spirit of her lifetime interests, inquired how these deeply emotional matters shaped and carved a woman's pursuit of liberty, knowledge, education and freedom to live her life in self-sovereignty.
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