Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–1695) was Colonial Mexico’s foremost intellectual. The self-taught illegitimate child of a Spanish captain and a Mexican criollo woman, she was raised in an hacienda in Amecameca, on the outskirts of Mexico City. As a teen, she was sent to the viceregal court in the city, where she became lady-in-waiting and a protégé of the Vicereine Leonor Carreto. Having chosen to continue to pursue knowledge over marriage, she entered the monastery of the Hieronymite nuns in 1669, where she remained cloistered until her death and wrote many of her most significant works, including the long poem “First Dream” and “Response of the Poet to the Very Eminent Sor Filotea de la Cruz,” an epistolary defense of a woman’s right to devote herself to scholarly pursuits. Her Baroque, proto-feminist writing—avidly displaying an acute understanding of the intricacies of power relations between the sexes and the Old and New Worlds—coincided with the Spanish Golden Age and garnered her a sizable readership in Spain and the Americas. Sor Juana was ultimately silenced by ecclesiastical authorities, yet her prodigious intelligence continues to incite minds.
Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal translated Sor Juana de la Cruz’s paradoxical Enigmas, in dialogue with Fabre’s book, for the first year of the Señal series. She is a Mexican and Chicana poet, a translator, and an instructor of English at Houston Community College.