Gabriel Mistral (1889-1957) was a Chilean poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her works include Selected Poems (translated by Langston Hughes in 1962), Despair (1922), Tenderness (1924), Tula (1938), and Wine Press (1954).
Life and Works
Gabriela Mistral was born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga on April 7, 1889 in Vicuña, Chile to a poet and a schoolteacher. Her father left her family at an early age, and her mother's health was in decline, so when she was a teenager, she began work as a schoolteacher, and after a year of work, tragedy struck when her railroad worker boyfriend and her nephew committed suicide.
She soon sought refuge in religion, and read her Bible fervently, particularly the book of Psalms, and praised it in the first collection of her works (mostly about his suicide) Desolación (1922). She never married, and continued the theme of love for children in her later works, Ternura (1924, “Tenderness”), Tala (1938, “Destruction”), and Lagar (1954, “The Wine Press”).
She continued to work as a teacher while composing poetry, and in 1922, became so proficient with both that she was invited to develop a Mexican public school system. She was proficient enough to win a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945, the first Latin American to do so, and to have her portrait on the 5,000 peso note. She died of cancer on January 10, 1957, in Hempstead, New York.
- The New York Public Library Student's Desk Reference. Prentice Hall: New York, 1991.
- "Mistral, Gabriela." Encyclopedia Britannica Online.