Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957)

She was the first female Latin American poet to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Nobel citation reads: “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“.

Gabriela Mistral was the pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga. A Chilean with a multi-faceted personality, she was a poet, an educator, a diplomat and a feminist all rolled into one. She had a difficult childhood, and had to start working as a teacher’s aide by the time she was 15 in order to support herself and her mother. While working as an educator, she also started to write poetry, some of which was published in local and national newspapers and magazines.

The tragic death of her lover in 1909 influenced her to write ‘Sonetos de la muerte,’ which went on to win a national award when published years later. Her growing popularity as a poet also opened up new avenues for her career as a teacher. Some central themes in her poems are nature, betrayal, love, a mother’s love, sorrow, recovery, travel, and Latin American identity—as formed from a mixture of Native American and European influences.

She was of Aymara and Basque descent. Her portrait also appears on the Chilean 5,000 peso bank note.

“Many of the things we need can wait,

The child cannot wait.

Right now is the time his bones are being formed,

His blood is being made,

And his senses are being developed.

To him we cannot answer ‘tomorrow’

His name is Today.”

Gabriela Mistral

Nobel Prize Winning Poet from Chile