Gabriela Mistral Biography
|Gabriela Mistral was the pseudonym of Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga (April 7, 1889 - January 10, 1957), Chilean poet, educator, diplomat and feminist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. The central themes in her poems are love, a mothers love, painful personal memories and sorrow and recovery.
Gabriela Mistral was born in Vicuña, where she attended primary and secondary school. Her father Juan Gerónimo Godoy Villanueva abandoned the family when she was 3. By the age of sixteen, she started to support herself and her mother by working as a teachers aide. Her mother, Petronila Alcayaga, died in 1929. Gabriela dedicated the first section of the book Tala (Tree Fall) to her.
In 1904 she published some early poems, such as Ensoñaciones, Carta Íntima (Intimate Letter) and Junto al Mar, in the local newspaper El Coquimbo de La Serena, using various pseudonyms.
In 1906, while working as a teacher, she met Romeo Ureta, a railway worker, who would become the great love of her life. He killed himself in 1909. His death left profound marks on her works.
Her first big success came on December 12, 1914, when she obtained the first prize at the literary contest Juegos Florales in Santiago, with the work Sonetos de la Muerte (Sonnets of Death). From that moment on she began using the pen name Gabriela Mistral, which she coined from those of two of her favorite poets, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Frédéric Mistral.
In 1922 she was invited to Mexico by that country's Minister of Education, on a plan to reform the libraries and the schools. That year she published Desolación which won her international acclaim. A year later she published Lecturas para Mujeres (Readings for Women), a text in prose and verse that celebrates motherhood, childhood education, and nationalism.
Back in Chile, she was given the academic title of Spanish professor by the University of Chile.
Her international stature led to lectures first in the United States and then in Europe. In 1924, travelling to Europe for the first time, she published Ternura (Tenderness) in Madrid, a collection of lullabies and rondas written primarily for children but often focused on the female body.
The next year she returned to Latin America. She toured Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Back in Chile, she was given a pension and retired from teaching.
She lived primarily in France and Italy during 1925 to 1934. During that time she worked for the League for Intellectual Co-operation of the League of Nations. She also taught at Columbia University, and Vassar College.
Served as consul of Chile in Naples, Madrid, Petrópolis, Nice, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and New York.
Tala appeared in 1938, published in Buenos Aires with the help of longtime friend and correspondent Victoria Ocampo.
In August 14, 1943, her nephew Juan Miguel, killed himself at 17, causing her enormous grief; she had raised him as if he were her own son.
In November 15, 1945, she became the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. She received the award in the hands on King Gustav of Sweden on December 10, 1945.
In 1947 she received a doctor honoris causa from Mills College, Oakland, California.
In 1951 she was awarded the long overdue National Literature Prize in Chile. She published Lagar (Wine Press) in 1954.
Because of poor health, she was forced to retire to her home in New York. She died from cancer on January 10, 1957 at the age of sixty-seven in her Long Island home. Her remainings were brought to Chile nine days later.
Some of her best known poems include: Piececitos de Niño, Balada, Todas Íbamos a ser Reinas, La Oración de la Maestra, El Ángel Guardián, Decálogo del Artista and La Flor del Aire.
Sonetos de la Muerte (1914)
Lecturas para Mujeres (1923)
Nubes Blancas y Breve Descripción de Chile (1934)
Recados Contando a Chile (1957)
Poema de Chile (1967, published posthumously)
|Gabriela Mistral Resources