|Birth Day:||April 7, 1889|
|Death Date:||Jan 10, 1957 (age 67)|
|Birth Place:||Vicuna, Chile|
As per our current Database, Gabriela Mistral died on Jan 10, 1957 (age 67).
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Her earliest poems, many of which were published in the Chilean newspaper El Coquimbo, include "Junto al Mar," "Carta Intima," and "Ensonaciones."
In 1904 Mistral published some early poems, such as Ensoñaciones ("Dreams"), Carta Íntima ("Intimate Letter") and Junto al Mar ("By the Sea"), in the local newspaper El Coquimbo: Diario Radical, and La Voz de Elqui using a range of pseudonyms and variations on her civil name.
In 1906, Mistral met Romelio Ureta, her first love, who killed himself in 1909. Shortly after, her second love married someone else. This heartbreak was reflected in her early poetry and earned Mistral her first recognized literary work in 1914 with Sonnets on Death (Sonetos de la muerte). Mistral was awarded first prize in a national literary contest Juegos Florales in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Writing about his suicide led the poet to consider death and life more broadly than previous generations of Latin American poets. While Mistral had passionate friendships with various men and women, and these impacted her writings, she was secretive about her emotional life.
Mistral's meteoric rise in Chile's national school system plays out against the complex politics of Chile in the first two decades of the 20th century. In her adolescence, the need for teachers was so great, and the number of trained teachers was so small, especially in the rural areas, that anyone who was willing could find work as a teacher. Access to good schools was difficult, however, and the young woman lacked the political and social connections necessary to attend the Normal School: She was turned down, without explanation, in 1907. She later identified the obstacle to her entry as the school's chaplain, Father Ignacio Munizaga, who was aware of her publications in the local newspapers, her advocacy of liberalizing education and giving greater access to the schools to all social classes.
Although her formal education had ended by 1900, she was able to get work as a teacher thanks to her older sister, Emelina, who had likewise begun as a teacher's aide and was responsible for much of the poet's early education. The poet was able to rise from one post to another because of her publications in local and national newspapers and magazines. Her willingness to move was also a factor. Between the years 1906 and 1912 she had taught, successively, in three schools near La Serena, then in Barrancas, then Traiguén in 1910, and in Antofagasta in the desert north, in 1911. By 1912 she had moved to work in a liceo, or high school, in Los Andes, where she stayed for six years and often visited Santiago. In 1918 Pedro Aguirre Cerda, then Minister of Education and a future president of Chile, promoted her appointment to direct a liceo in Punta Arenas. She moved on to Temuco in 1920, then to Santiago, where in 1921, she defeated a candidate connected with the Radical Party, Josefina Dey del Castillo, to be named director of Santiago's Liceo #6, the country's newest and most prestigious girls' school. Controversies over the nomination of Gabriela Mistral to the highly coveted post in Santiago were among the factors that made her decide to accept an invitation to work in Mexico in 1922, with that country's Minister of Education, José Vasconcelos. He had her join in the nation's plan to reform libraries and schools, to start a national education system. That year she published Desolación in New York, which further promoted the international acclaim she had already been receiving thanks to her journalism and public speaking. A year later she published Lecturas para Mujeres (Readings for Women), a text in prose and verse that celebrates Latin America from the broad, Americanist perspective developed in the wake of the Mexican Revolution.
Mistral was born in Vicuña, Chile, but was raised in the small Andean village of Montegrande, where she attended a primary school taught by her older sister, Emelina Molina. She respected her sister greatly, despite the many financial problems that Emelina brought her in later years. Her father, Juan Gerónimo Godoy Villanueva, was also a schoolteacher. He abandoned the family before she was three years old, and died, long since estranged from the family, in 1911. Throughout her early years she was never far from poverty. By age fifteen, she was supporting herself and her mother, Petronila Alcayaga, a seamstress, by working as a teacher's aide in the seaside town of Compañia Baja, near La Serena, Chile.
In 1922, Mistral released her first book, Desolation (Desolación), with the help of the Director of Hispanic Institute of New York, Federico de Onis. It was a collection of poems that encompassed motherhood, religion, nature, morality and love of children. Her personal sorrow was present in the poems and her International reputation was established. Her work was a turn from modernism in Latin America and was marked by critics as direct, yet simplistic. In 1924, she released her second book, Tenderness (Ternura).
Themes of death, desolation and loss do not entirely fill the pages of Gabriela Mistral's books. Other themes such as love and motherhood, not just the love for her beloved railroad employee and nephew (son), were transferred to the very children she taught. It comes to no surprise that the name of her collection of songs and rounds is titled Ternura, to express her feelings of love she has for the children of her school. Printed in Madrid in 1924, her next collection of love filled words was felt and well received by four thousand Mexican children who would honor her by singing her very own collection of heart-felt words. Thanks to the hard work and profound dedication to her children she became known as the poet of motherhood.
Following almost two years in Mexico she traveled from Laredo, Texas, to Washington D.C., where she addressed the Pan American Union, went on to New York, then toured Europe: In Madrid she published Ternura (Tenderness), a collection of lullabies and rondas written for an audience of children, parents, and other poets. In early 1925 she returned to Chile, where she formally retired from the nation's education system, and received a pension. It wasn't a moment too soon: The legislature had just agreed to the demands of the teachers union, headed by Mistral's lifelong rival, Amanda Labarca Hubertson, that only university-trained teachers should be given posts in the schools. The University of Chile had granted her the academic title of Spanish Professor in 1923, although her formal education ended before she was 12 years old. Her autodidacticism was remarkable, a testimony to the flourishing culture of newspapers, magazines, and books in provincial Chile, as well as to her personal determination and verbal genius.
Mistral's international stature made it highly unlikely that she would remain in Chile. In mid-1925 she was invited to represent Latin America in the newly formed Institute for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations. With her relocation to France in early 1926 she was effectively an exile for the rest of her life. She made a living, at first, from journalism and then giving lectures in the United States and in Latin America, including Puerto Rico. She variously toured the Caribbean, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, among other places.
Mistral lived primarily in France and Italy between 1926 and 1932. During these years she worked for the League for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations, attending conferences of women and educators throughout Europe and occasionally in the Americas. She held a visiting professorship at Barnard College of Columbia University in 1930–1931, worked briefly at Middlebury College and Vassar College in 1931, and was warmly received at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, where she variously gave conferences or wrote, in 1931, 1932, and 1933.
The poet's second major volume of poetry, Tala, appeared in 1938, published in Buenos Aires with the help of longtime friend and correspondent Victoria Ocampo. The proceeds for the sale were devoted to children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War. This volume includes many poems celebrating the customs and folklore of Latin America as well as Mediterranean Europe. Mistral uniquely fuses these locales and concerns, a reflection of her identification as "una mestiza de vasco," her European Basque-Indigenous Amerindian background.
On 14 August 1943, Mistral's 17-year-old nephew, Juan Miguel Godoy, killed himself. Mistral considered Juan Miguel as a son and she called him Yin Yin. The grief of this death, as well as her responses to tensions of World War II and then the Cold War in Europe and the Americas, are all reflected in the last volume of poetry published in her lifetime, Lagar, which appeared in a truncated form in 1954. A final volume of poetry, Poema de Chile, was edited posthumously by her partner Doris Dana and published in 1967. Poema de Chile describes the poet's return to Chile after death, in the company of an Indian boy from the Atacama desert and an Andean deer, the huemul. This collection of poetry anticipates the interests in objective description and re-vision of the epic tradition just then becoming evident among poets of the Americas, all of whom Mistral read carefully.
On 15 November 1945, Mistral became the first Latin American, and fifth woman, to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. She received the award in person from King Gustav of Sweden on 10 December 1945. In 1947 she received a doctor honoris causa from Mills College, Oakland, California. In 1951 she was awarded the National Literature Prize in Chile.
She published hundreds of articles in magazines and newspapers throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Among her confidants were Eduardo Santos, President of Colombia, all of the elected Presidents of Chile from 1922 to her death in 1957, Eduardo Frei Montalva, who would be elected president in 1964, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Poor health somewhat slowed Mistral's traveling. During the last years of her life she made her home in the town of Roslyn, New York; in early January 1957 she transferred to Hempstead, New York, where she died from pancreatic cancer on 10 January 1957, aged 67. Her remains were returned to Chile nine days later. The Chilean government declared three days of national mourning, and hundreds of thousands of mourners came to pay her their respects.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the image of Gabriela Mistral was appropriated by the military dictatorship of Pinochet presenting her as a symbol of "submission to the authority" and "social order". Views of her as a saint-like celibate and suffering heterosexual woman were first challenged by author Licia Fiol-Matta who contends that she was rather a lesbian. The suspicions about her eventual lesbianism were reaffirmed with the discovery of her archive in 2007, after the death of her claimed last romantic partner, Doris Dana, in 2006. Dana had kept thousands of documents, including letters between Mistral and her various occasional female lovers. The publication of the letters she wrote to Dana herself in the volume Niña errante (2007), edited by Pedro Pablo Zegers, reaffirmed the idea that the two had a long-lasting romantic relationship that supported Mistral in her latest years. The letters were translated into English by Velma García and published by University of New Mexico Press in 2018. Regardless of these hypotheses about the claimed romance between them, Doris Dana, who was 31 years younger than Mistral, denied explicitly in her last interview that her relationship with Mistral was romantic or erotic, and described it as the relationship between a stepmother and her stepdaughter. Dana denied being lesbian and in her opinion it is unlikely that Gabriela Mistral was lesbian. Mistral had diabetes and heart problems. Eventually she died of pancreatic cancer in Hempstead Hospital in New York City on 10 January 1957, at 67 years of age, with Doris Dana by her side.
Currently, Gabriela Mistral is 132 years, 5 months and 13 days old. Gabriela Mistral will celebrate 133rd birthday on a Thursday 7th of April 2022.
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