In October 2019, more than one million Chileans took to the streets in what was the largest protest in the country’s history. Few things united them. Some demanded better education, others demanded greater Indigenous rights. They had no leader, no symbol.
But as the dust settled, one image slowly emerged as a prominent emblem: black combat boots, faded jeans, and a T-shirt with the lyrics of a punk rock band on a mural in downtown Santiago. It depicts an elderly woman wearing a Her neck was wrapped in a green handkerchief, the signature of a Latin American abortion rights activist, and she held a black-painted national flag in her left hand. To her right is an open book.
That woman is Chilean poet, educator and diplomat Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945. Featuring a new generation of feminists and her LGBT activists as dissident icons, she ignited a debate about how to interpret literary figures of the past.
“My instinct told me that Gabriella was the right person to accompany this cause,” said Fab Ciraolo, the artist who painted the mural. Right, she touches on all those issues.”
In recent years, interest in Mistral, who died on Long Island in 1957, has surged. her previous work. Last year, a selection of letters Mistral addressed to her longtime companion and enforcer, Doris Dana, were published and celebrated.
A Spanish-language edition of The Nation’s Queer Mother: The Nation and Gabriela Mistral, by Licia Fior Matta, Professor of Latin American Literature at New York University, will be published this spring by a Chilean publisher. Decades after its controversial English publication.
The country’s new president, Gabriel Borik, a 36-year-old millennial, has cited Mistral as one of his favorite poets and frequently quotes her. Mistral is ubiquitous in Chile, but her roads are adorned with her name and her face is depicted on her 5,000 pesos ($5.60) banknote, but her legacy is long gone. has been the subject of controversy.
Born Lucilla Godoy Alcayaga in 1889, Mistral grew up in the remote Elqui Valley in northern Chile. Her father abandoned her family when she was a baby and she was raised by her mother, her tailor. Her older sister, a school teacher. and her grandmother. They lived in her two-room shack, and Mistral didn’t finish elementary school, but according to Elizabeth Horan, an associate professor of English at Arizona State University, Mistral had one big advantage. was. An era when less than her one-third of her population can read and write. Horan’s Spanish-language biography of Mistral, which took 25 years to produce, will be published by Random Her House later this year.
Mistral worked as a rural teacher’s assistant and in her spare time wrote poems and essays for the local newspaper. “There is nothing in her that would lead her to be placed in a lower position than men.”
She worked as a teacher throughout Chile, but Mistral’s poor origins and lack of a formal degree hampered her career progress. In 1922, she accepted an invitation from the Mexican government to reform the public education system, and she never returned to Chile.
For the rest of his life, he worked as a consul and visiting professor in Spain, Portugal, France, Brazil, Italy, and the United States, and taught at Columbia University.
Despite his international fame, Mistral’s work was often ignored in his home country. Of the four books of poetry she published during her lifetime, three were published outside Chile. Her poems about children are included in school curricula, but her political essays often take internationalist and pacifist stances, representing disenfranchised indigenous peoples and women. It was claimed, but was left behind for a long time.
When the military came to power in 1973, Chile’s most famous poet was Pablo Neruda, a Nobel laureate and atheist communist. In contrast, Mistral seemed like a palatable cultural icon. Alejandra Araya, director of the archives that keep some of Mistral’s works, said the administration “has seen her poetry as naive and cute, even though it is in fact a powerful social commentary.” I manipulated her work until it looked like this.
The leadership has gone so far as to put Mistral on currency, promoting her image as a maternal schoolteacher for the nation. Most Chileans knew her as “a gray, ugly, boring old lady”.
After the dictatorship ended in 1990, some scholars began questioning the saint’s portrayal of her as an unmarried woman.
“Mistral was a very protected icon,” said Fiormatta. The book was turned down by local publishers, in part because the poet claimed to be a closeted lesbian. I wanted to see
In 2007, cracks began to widen. That year, a stack of letters between Mistral and Dana was published. In them, Mistral vacillates between her doting mother (she often referred to Dana, who is 31 years younger than her, as “my little daughter”) and her jealous lover, Blame her for meeting other men or women.
Mistral wrote in 1950: “I stick to you like a possessed man, except for the moment I read and write.” In another written exchange, Dana told Mistral, “How I touch, what I can’t say, Is there anything you can’t show? I love you with all my heart. ”
Mistral has adamantly denied being a lesbian. Still, some scholars argue that the letters and Mistral’s anomalous lifestyle suggest she was at least queer: she spent a long time with her secretary, who doubled as her best friend. I was living And she adopted her nephew with another woman, Palma Guien, a Mexican diplomat.
Decades after the dictatorship first appropriated Mistral’s image, Chilean activists have hailed her as a feminist and LGBT icon.
“There’s an argument here. Can you say Gabriela Mistral was a lesbian if she didn’t say so? I mean she challenged heteronormativity,” said the feminist. Writer June Garcia, who runs the book club, said.
Although Mistral didn’t call herself a feminist, she was “someone who took the values of equality and justice seriously, and these values ultimately drive us today,” Garcia said. added.
Chile experienced its #MeToo moment in 2018. Thousands of women on college campuses have complained of sexual harassment, prompting a curriculum re-evaluation. Her one of the movement’s beneficiaries is her Mistral, and her one of its victims, Neruda, is increasingly canceled.
Feminists claim Neruda abandoned his disabled wife and daughter, and a passage in a memoir published in 1974 states that he raped a maid while a diplomat in what is now Sri Lanka. points out.
“I decided to go full force. I squeezed her wrist hard,” he wrote. “Meet was a man with a statue.”
The passage recently sparked outrage, and in 2018 Congress withdrew a proposal to rename Santiago airport after Neruda.
Feminist protests go hand in hand with the country’s growing LGBT movement. According to a government survey released in November, the percentage of Chileans aged 15 to 29 who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender or nonbinary has quadrupled in the past decade. 12% of
Claudia Cabello Hutto, a self-identified queer Chilean associate professor of Spanish, said: University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
“In an era of strong feminist movements, we are calling for violence against women,” said Cabello Hutto. This is Mistral time. ”