In recent history, too many Latin American politicians have fallen victim to a Marxist view of the world — and they have dragged their countries into poverty.
Of course, Latin America has also been home to some of the world’s most powerful pro-liberty voices — including Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican nun who lived from 1648-1695. She was one of the world’s first and most eloquent defenders of freedom for women in a time when they had few rights and were granted little respect as intellectuals.
Sor Juana’s most well-known piece, “Response to Sister Filotea de la Cruz,” was written in 1691 but not distributed until it was posthumously published in 1700. In reality, “Sister Filotea” was the pseudonym of a male bishop who had written that Sor Juana should concentrate on religious studies while leaving secular ideas to men.
But Sor Juana was a voracious reader and, in a sense, scientist. Her convent was home to one of the world’s largest libraries at the time. “In the convent,” she wrote, “I pursued the laborious task of reading and reading more, of studying and studying more with no teacher but the books themselves […] all of this work I endured happily for the love of letters.”
Her “Response” is brutally logical and funny at times — while careful not to venture into impolite. She writes:
“What, then, shall I tell you, my Lady, of the secrets of nature that I have learned
while cooking? I observe that an egg becomes solid and cooks in butter or oil, and on the
contrary that it dissolves in sugar syrup. . . .
“It was well put by Lupercio Leonardo that one can philosophize quite well while
preparing supper. I often say, when I make these little observations, “Had Aristotle
cooked, he would have written a great deal more.”
Additionally, her Sonnet #145, although it wasn’t ostensibly political, stands as one of Sor Juana’s deepest and most personal pieces. Upon seeing a portrait of herself, she wrote:
“What you see here is colorful illusion,
an art boasting of beauty and its skill,
which in false reasoning of color will
pervert the mind in delicate delusion.”
Sor Juana’s writings continue to be studied in universities not just throughout Latin America but throughout the world. To many, she remains a feminist hero. Her image currently adorns Mexican currency — the 200-peseta bill — and her former convent has become a center for higher education.