Born Juana Ines Asbaje Ramirez de Santillana in 1651, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, as she later became to be known, was an unusual and very gifted child who came to be recognized as one of Mexico´s great scholars and writers. She was the illegitimate child of a Basque nobleman, and grew up during her early years within a hacienda owned by her grandfather. This allowed her access, albeit clandestine, to her grandfather´s books which caught her attention very early in life, and by the age of three Juana had taught herself to read and write.
An amazing child who was already teaching Latin to younger children by the age of 13, Juana disguised herself as a boy in order to enter university in Mexico City at the age of 16 in order to be able to pursue her dreams of higher learning and gain access to subjects and materials not otherwise available to her as a female in that society. At 17 she was brought before a group of learned philosophers, theologians, poets and others of educational authority and astonished them all with the quality and scope of her knowledge and abilities.
Sor Juana entered the Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites in 1667 but two years later, in 1669, she abandoned it and instead entered the Convent of the Order of St. Jerome, which became her refuge for the remainder of her life.
She wrote poetry and literary pieces which often focused on themes of personal and women´s rights and freedoms, the sciences, social injustices and the hypocrisy of man. She even wrote comedy. With her outspokenness, she ran the risk of being labeled a heretic and was in fact seriously cautioned against addressing any theme other than accepted theology.
It is said by some that most of her works were destroyed by the Inquisition and in fact there are only a few writings of hers which remain intact, published as her “Complete Works”. She is recognised as the first female theologian of the Americas, even though her activities and writings caused her great suffering and persecution from the parish priests and bishops of the era. Sor Juana died in 1695 while tending to her fellow nuns who had been struck down by an outbreak of the plague..
Arturo Macias´ vision and interpretation of the figure of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz is one of power and centeredness. Beneath the squarish, masculine lines of her inscribed tunic, Sor Juana stands tall and firm. In her right hand she holds the book “Magint Sentencia”.