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Baroque Literature in Mexico & Latin America

Instructor: Crystal Hall

Crystal has a bachelor's degree in English, a certification in General Studies, and has assisted in teaching both middle and high school English.

The era known as Baroque occurred between 1600 and approximately 1750. This pioneering period introduced an infusion of creativity and originality in the world of Mexican and Latin American literature.

Creative Communication

While the baroque style began in Western Europe, its influences were far reaching, globally impacting artists and their works. In this lesson, we will focus on the effects of the Baroque Period on literature in Mexico and Latin America.

Characteristics

Baroque literature was typically written with exaggerated actions and concise, understandable details to create drama and tension in primarily grandiose environments. Often pessimistic, giving rise to disappointment, Baroque literature tended to lean toward focusing on the post-Renaissance let-down. Using escapism, satirical humor, complaints against beauty and vanity, and criticism of religious and political ideals, the writers were attempting to escape their own disillusionment.

Authors and Works

  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, whose original name was Juana Ramírez de Asbaje, was a nun, poet, author, and a playwright. Born in San Miguel Nepantla, Viceroyalty of New Spain, which is now in Mexico, she is one of the most notable writers of the Latin American Baroque Period.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

Sor Juana, although she remained largely secluded and dedicated in her service as a nun, was deemed the unofficial court poet in the 1680s. Her plays and poetry, and writings, commissioned for religious services and for state festivals, all greatly enhanced her nunnery's external environment.

She wrote moral, satirical, and religious lyrics, along with many poems of praise to prominent people of the court. Her literary genres, somber, humorous, academic and mainstream, were quite unusual for a nun. Sor Juana authored both allegorical religious dramas and entertaining plays of mystery.

Her philosophical poetry often embraces the Baroque theme of the deceptiveness that often lies within appearances and a defense of empiricism that borders on the ideas of Enlightenment. ''The Respuesta a Sor Filotea'', written in 1691 as ''Answer to Sor Filotea'', is a forerunner of feminism in its argument that women should be permitted to have intellectual interests.

Sor Juana's most important and complicated poem, undated and known as ''Primero Sueño'', is both personal and universal. It explores the tormented soul in its search for knowledge. The poem begins at nightfall when the soul becomes unrestrained by its body and is free to dream. While in a dream state, the soul tries in vain to achieve omniscience through the philosophies of Neo-Platonism and Scholasticism.

Sor Juana's most famous poem, ''Hombres necios'' (''Foolish Men''), accuses men of the illogical behavior that they criticize in women. Her many love poems in the first person show a woman's disillusionment with love due to strife, pain, and jealousy,

  • Bernardo de Balbuena, whose literary masterpiece is ''La grandeza mexicana'' (''Mexican Grandeur'') describes colonial Mexico. He details the beauty of the city eighty years after it was conquered by the Spaniards and had become the capital of New Spain.

He paints a word portrait of the city's geography, climate, architecture, flowers, greenery, and its citizens. The poem is both Renaissance and early Baroque in style, containing complicated baroque metaphors. ''La grandeza mexicana'' demonstrated the pride of early Mexicans in their contemporary, semi-independent culture.

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