1945 : Gabriela Mistral

1945 : Gabriela Mistral

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“for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world”



April 7, 1889

Place of birth


Vicuna, Chile



January 10, 1957

Place of death


Hempstead, New York, USA



Poet, Diplomat, Educator, Feminist




Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1945


The author’s childhood is marked by the absence of the father abandoned his family when Gabriela still wore panales.En 1904 starts working as assistant professor in the School of Baja Company and begins to send contributions to the newspaper El Coquimbo La Serena , Chile. The following year he writes regularly in the newspaper mentioned above and in La Voz de Elqui of Vicuna. He studied at the Ecole Normale of Copiapo, Atacama current University of obtaining the title of Professor normal. Since 1908 is a teacher in the town of La Cantera and then in Los Cerrillos. As a teacher you loved the students and felt a duty to educate and teach. For her books were something sacred. Subsequently, in 1910, validates their studies at the Normal School No. 1 in Santiago and gets the official title of professor of State, awarded by the American Institute. On December 12, 1914 wins first prize in the contest literature of the Floral Games organized by the date in Santiago, for his Sonetos of Death. Since then used the literary pseudonym Gabriela Mistral in almost all his writings, in tribute to two of his favorite poets, the Italian Gabriele D’Annunzio and Frenchman Frederic Mistral. In July 1917, and Juan Agustin Molina Nunez Araya published one of the most important poetry anthologies of Chile, “Selva Lirica,” where Lucila Godoy and appears as one of the great Chilean poet. This publication is the latest in using his real name. The fact of having lived from Antofagasta, in the far north to the port of Punta Arenas at the southern end, where he directed his first lyceum and stimulated the life of the city, the brand for life. His attachment to Punta Arenas was also due to his relationship with Laura Rodig, who lived in that city. But the writer of Elqui not stand either the polar climate. Therefore, he requested a transfer, and in 1920 went to live in the city of Temuco, from where it departed en route to Santiago in 1921. During his stay in the Araucania met a young man named Naphtali Reyes, who later would be known as Pablo Neruda. Gabriela Mistral wanted a new challenge after having led two schools of poor quality. Ran and won the prestigious post of director of the Lyceum # 6 Santiago, but the teachers did not receive either, he complained his lack of professional studies. Meanwhile, left Chile as soon as possible. In Mexico gave him an appreciation that Chile had refused, the Mexican government invited her to this country in 1922, and stayed there for nearly two years, working with the most prominent intellectuals of the Spanish-speaking world at that time. After a tour of the United States and Europe, he returned to Chile, where the political situation was so tense that it was forced to start again, this time in Europe to serve as its representative to the League of Nations, being one the few women with that charge. His life is in the future, a continuation of the relentless Errantia he met in Chile, without a fixed position on which to use his talent. Prefer, then, living between America and Europe. She travels, for example, the island of Puerto Rico in 1931, as part of a tour of the Caribbean and South America. It is on this tour which is called “Brock’s Defender of the Army National Sovereignty” in Nicaragua by the [General Sandino] [1], who had given their support in numerous writings. Moreover gave speeches at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, in Santo Domingo, Cuba, and in all the countries of Central America. Published in 1924 in Madrid Tenderness, book in which the author practiced a kind of “poetry school” novel, by renewing the traditional genres of poetry for children (lullabies, rounds, lullabies …) from an austere poetic, highly purified . Petronila Alcayaga, his mother died in 1929, making him Gabriela Mistral devoted the first part of his book Tala. We can see the imprint of the Second World War in many of the poems in his book Lagar. In 1943, in Petropolis (Brazil), at the age of 18 commits suicide Yin Yin [2] (John MiguelGodoy Mendonza), a young man who was the son of a half-brother and that she was adopted by Mistral and her friend Palma Guillen. On December 10, 1945 received the Nobel Prize for Literature in the hands of King Gustav V of Sweden. With this award becomes the first American writer to be awarded the Nobel. At the awards ceremony was called the “queen of Latin American literature.” In 1947 received the honorary doctorate from Mills College of Oakland, California. In 1951 he received the National Prize for Literature. Among the many doctorates honoris causa she received were from the University of Guatemala, of the University of California at Los Angeles, University of Florence, Italy, and several others, before the University of Chile finally decided offer such honor in 1954. He published his first book Desolation in New York and later in Chile. One of his favorite places in New York was a source where she was inspired to write, where he had strong ties with the U.S. Doris Dana, who was receiving an official spokeswoman and executor of Mistral. Because of this friendship, strength groundless rumors were about in Chilean society then, pointing at an inclination of the poet towards homosexuality (to this day, there was no documents or letters to support the rumor). This deeply saddened at Mistral and refused for a long time to return to his native country. Because of his delicate health, Mistral chose to move away from the world at his home in New York. Time after victim died of cancer on January 10, 1957, at the age of 67 years. In her life she became the first collective passport, won several honors and awards around the world including the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Works in Spanish:

  • Desolacion – New York : Instituto de las Espanas, 1922

  • Ternura : canciones de ninos – Madrid : Saturnino Calleja, 1924

  • Tala – Buenos Aires : Sur, 1938

  • Los sonetos de la muerte y otros poemas elegiacos – Santiago : Philobiblion, 1952

  • Lagar – Santiago, 1954

  • Croquis mexicanos; Gabriela Mistral en Me?xico – Me?xico : Costa-Amic, 1957

  • Recados : Contando a Chile – Santiago : Editorial del Pacifico, 1957

  • Poesias completas – Madrid : Aguilar, 1958

  • Paginas en prosa – Buenos Aires : Kapelusz, 1962

  • Motivos de San Francisco – Santiago : Editorial del Pacifico, 1965

  • Poema de Chile – Barcelona : Pomaire, 1967

  • Antologia poetica de Gabriela Mistral – Santiago : Editorial Universitaria, 1974

  • Materias : prosa inedita – Santiago : Editorial Universitaria, 1978

  • Gabriela anda por el mundo – Santiago : Andres Bello, 1978

  • Prosa religiosa de Gabriela Mistral – Santiago : Andres Bello, 1978

  • Magisterio y nino – Santiago : Andres Bello, 1979

  • Grandeza de los oficios – Santiago : Andres Bello, 1979

  • Elogio de las cosas de la tierra – Santiago : Andres Bello, 1979

  • Reino : Poesia dispersa e inedita, en verso y prosa – Valparaiso : Ediciones Universitarias de Valparaiso, 1983

  • Lagar II – Santiago : Dirrecion de Bibliotecas, Archivos y Museos, Biblioteca Nacional, 1991

  • Poesia y prosa – Caracas : Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1993

  • Bendita mi lengua sea : Diario intima de Gabriela Mistral, 1905-1956 – Santiago : Planeta/Ariel, 2002

  • Recopilacion de la obra mistraliana, 1902-1922 – Santiago : Ril, 2002

  • 50 prosas en El Mercurio 1921-1956 – Santiago : El Mercurio/Aguilar, 2005

  • Gabriela Mistral esencial: Poesia, prosa y correspondencia – Santiago : Aguilar Chilena de Ediciones, 2005

Translations into English:

  • Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral / translated by Langston Hughes – Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1957

  • Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral / translated and edited by Doris Dana – Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971

  • A Gabriela Mistral Reader / translated by Maria Giachetti, edited by Marjorie Agosin – Fredonia, N.Y. : White Pines, 1993

  • Women / translated by Jacqueline C. Nanfito, edited by Agosin and Nanfito – Buffalo : White Pine Press, 2001

  • Selected Prose and Prose-Poems / edited and translated by Stephen Tapscott – Austin : University of Texas Press, 2002

  • Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral / translated by Ursula K. Le Guin – Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 2003


1945: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Hjalmar Gullberg, Member of the Swedish Academy, on December 10, 1945

One day a mother’s tears caused a whole language, disdained at that time in good society, to rediscover its nobility and gain glory through the power of its poetry. It is said that when [Frederic] Mistral, the first of the two poets bearing the name of the Mediterranean wind, had written his first verses in French as a young student, his mother began to shed inexhaustible tears. An ignorant country woman from Languedoc, she did not understand this distinguished language. Mistral then wrote Mireio, recounting the love of the pretty little peasant for the poor artisan, an epic that exudes the perfume of the flowering land and ends in cruel death. Thus the old language of the troubadours became again the language of poetry. The Nobel Prize of 1904 drew the world’s attention to this event. Ten years later the poet of Mireio died.

In that same year, 1914, the year in which the First World War broke out, a new Mistral appeared at the other end of the world. At the Floral Games of Santiago de Chile, Gabriela Mistral obtained the prize with some poems dedicated to a dead man.

Her story is so well known to the people of South America that, passed on from country to country, it has become almost a legend. And now that she as at last come to us, over the crests of the Cordilleran Andes and across the immensities of the Atlantic, we may retell it once again.

In a small village in the Elquis valley, several decades ago, was born a future schoolteacher named Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga. Godoy was her father’s name, Alcayaga her mother’s; both were of Basque origin. Her father, who had been a schoolteacher, improvised verses with ease. His talent seems to have been mixed with the anxiety and the instability common to poets. He left his family when his daughter, for whom he had made a small garden, was still a child. Her beautiful mother, who was to live a long time, has said that sometimes she discovered her lonely little daughter engaged in intimate conversations with the birds and the flowers of the garden. According to one version of the legend, she was expelled from school. Apparently she was considered too stupid for teaching hours to be wasted on her. Yet she taught herself by her own methods, educating herself to the extent that she became a teacher in the small village school of Cantera. There her destiny was fulfilled at the age of twenty, when a passionate love arose between her and a railroad employee.

We know little of their story. We know only that he betrayed her. One day in November, 1909, he fatally shot himself in the head. The young girl was seized with boundless despair. Like Job, she lifted her cry to the Heaven that had allowed this. From the lost valley in the barren, scorched mountains of Chile a voice arose, and far around men heard it. A banal tragedy of everyday life lost its private character and entered into universal literature. Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga became Gabriela Mistral. The little provincial schoolteacher, the young colleague of Selma Lagerlof of Marbacka, was to become the spiritual queen of Latin America.

When the poems written in memory of the dead man had made known the name of the new poet, the sombre and passionate poems of Gabriela Mistral began to spread over all South America. It was not until 1922, however, that she had her large collection of poems, Desolacion (Despair), printed in New York. A mother’s tears burst forth in the middle of the book, in the fifteenth poem, tears shed for the son of the dead man, a son who would never be born…

Gabriela Mistral transferred her natural love to the children she taught. For them she wrote the collections of simple songs and rounds, collected in Madrid in 1924 under the title Ternura (Tenderness). In her honour, four thousand Mexican children at one time sang these rounds. Gabriela Mistral became the poet of motherhood by adoption.

In 1938 her third large collection, Tala (a title which can be translated as ravage but which is also the name of a children’s game), appeared in Buenos Aires for the benefit of the infant victims of the Spanish Civil War. Contrasting with the pathos of Desolacion, Tala expresses the cosmic calm which envelopes the South American land whose fragrance comes all the way to us. We are again in the garden of her childhood; I listen again to the intimate dialogues with nature and common things. There is a curious mixture of sacred hymn and naive song for children; the poems on bread and wine, salt, corn, and water – water that can be offered to thirsty men – celebrate the primordial foods of human life!…

From her maternal hand this poet gives us a drink which tastes of the earth and which appease the thirst of the heart. It is drawn from the spring which ran for Sappho on a Greek island and for Gabriela Mistral in the valley Elquis, the spring of poetry that will never dry up.

Madame Gabriela Mistral – You have indeed made a long voyage to be received by so short a speech. In the space of a few minutes I have described to the compatriots of Selma Lagerlof your remarkable pilgrimage from the chair of a schoolmistress to the throne of poetry. In rendering homage to the rich Latin American literature, we address ourselves today quite specially to its queen, the poet of Desolacion, who has become the great singer of sorrow and of motherhood.

I ask you now to receive from the hands of His Majesty the King the Nobel Prize in Literature, which the Swedish Academy has awarded you.

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