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Books

What Juana de la Cruz still teaches us

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04 December 2021

Now in its ninth volume, the series, Mothers of the Faith, published by San Paolo, is directed by Cristina Simonelli and Rita Torti. The latest book, written by Simonelli herself, is Juana Ines de la Cruz and tells the story of the literary and proto-feminist nun who animated Mexican culture and spirituality in the seventeenth century. A fully-fledged exponent of the siglo de oro, Juana de la Cruz was an important personality, who is still very popular in Mexico today, where her portrait adorns banknotes.

Simonelli, a theologian and professor of patristic theology in Verona and at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy in Milan, met Juana de la Cruz, “as a woman who crossed worlds and became in a certain sense our contemporary, close despite the chronological and geographical distance” and who retraced her overwhelming story but “not with a happy ending”. Sister Juana (1648-1695), was born “to a strong and unmarried mother”. However, this “did not bring her dishonor, nor did it prevent her from being accepted first at court and then in the convent of San Gerolamo, a rather exclusive place reserved for Creole women”. She died because of an epidemic, but before that, she was forced to give up her activity as a writer, and saw her talent humiliated, “struck by a patriarchy disguised as spirituality”.

For the author, laying it bare “is an invigorating act: for women who can still be victims, for men who certainly have the chance to live a better masculinity, for both of them together, in a space that is truly habitable”.   (WCW)