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Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695)

Sor Juana Inés was a child prodigy. Although in her era it was not usual for women to have access to culture, she learned to read at the age of three. As a youth she was brilliant, cultured, and respected, and her ingenious poetry, eloquence, and expressiveness made her one of the most distinguished Spanish colonial literary personalities of the seventeenth century.

She was born an illegitimate child in San Miguel Nepantla, today located in Estado de México. She studied in her grandfather's library in the Hacienda de Panoayan, Estado de México. At the age of eight, she wrote a eucharistic praise (loa eucarística). At a very young age she traveled to Mexico City where she studied Latin (learning the language in only 20 lessons). In 1665 she joined the royal court in the service of the viceroy's wife, Doña Leonor Carreto, the Marchise of Mancera. People at the court were amazed by her intelligence, memory, and discretion.

Encouraged by her confessor, the powerful Jesuit Antonio Núñez de Miranda, she decided in 1667 to enter the Carmelite convent of San José, in order to dedicate herself to her studies. Later, she left this convent due to illness, and in 1669, she entered the San Jerónimo convent in Mexico City, where she remained for the rest of her life. Sor Juana built a valuable library of about 4,000 volumes and studied diverse disciplines: theology, astronomy, painting, languages, philosophy, and music. She died in Mexico City on April 17, 1695, due to plague, which she contracted while caring for other sisters of her order.

Source: Diccionario Porrúa de Historia, Biografía y Geografía de México.