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The Cover
February 2, 2011

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

JAMA. 2011;305(5):442. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.30

In the estimation of the Mexican poet Octavio Paz, the poems, plays, and essays of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz are among the best that the Western hemisphere has ever produced. Juana was a poor but ambitious girl who achieved literary fame and for many years a rare literary freedom. But her opinions on gender roles and individuality were centuries ahead of their time, and toward the end of her life the privilege to express herself freely was taken away. As a child, Juana was an avid learner, becoming proficient at Latin, Greek, and arithmetic by the age of 16. She hoped to study at the university, but found that only boys were eligible to attend. Then she had a stroke of luck. The Marquesa of Mancera, whose husband had recently been appointed Viceroy of New Spain (present-day Mexico), agreed to become her tutor. For three years she was the Marquesa's companion and protégé. However, there were too many distractions at the Viceroy's court to allow Juana to pursue her intellectual interests, and after several proposals of marriage, which she declined, she took refuge in the Convent of the Order of San Jerómino.

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