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Gabriela Mistral Bibliography

Gabriela Mistral - Biographical

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, was born in Vicuña, Chile. The daughter of a dilettante poet, she began to write poetry as a village schoolteacher after a passionate romance with a railway employee who committed suicide. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous. She played an important role in the educational systems of Mexico and Chile, was active in cultural committees of the League of Nations, and was Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. She held honorary degrees from the Universities of Florence and Guatemala and was an honorary member of various cultural societies in Chile as well as in the United States, Spain, and Cuba. She taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and at the University of Puerto Rico.

The love poems in memory of the dead, Sonetos de la muerte (1914), made her known throughout Latin America, but her first great collection of poems, Desolación [Despair], was not published until 1922. In 1924 appeared Ternura [Tenderness], a volume of poetry dominated by the theme of childhood; the same theme, linked with that of maternity, plays a significant role in Tala, poems published in 1938. Her complete poetry was published in 1958.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.


Gabriela Mistral died on January 10, 1957.


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1945

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Gabriela Mistral Biography

Gabriela Mistral was the pseudonym used by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, a Chilean poet, educator and feminist who became the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945.

Gabriela Mistral was a woman with a multi-faceted personality—she was a poet, an educator, a diplomat and a feminist all rolled into one. She has the honour of being the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945. She had a difficult childhood, and had to start working as a teacher’s aide by the time she was 15 in order to support herself and her mother. While working as an educator, she also started to write poetry, some of which were published in the local and national newspapers and magazines. The tragic death of her lover in 1909 influenced her to write Sonetos de la muerte which went on to win a national award for her when published years later. Her growing popularity as a poet also opened up newer avenues for her career growth as a teacher. She got many opportunities to teach at prestigious schools, and then gradually went on to become a college educator. Her rising stature in the international scenario made it impossible for her to remain in Chile for long. In the mid 1920’s, she represented Latin America in the Institute for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations. She lived primarily in France and Italy between1926 and 1932. During this period, she also extensively toured many countries like Brazil, Argentina, the Caribbean, Uruguay, etc. She held a visiting professorship at Barnard College of Columbia University, worked briefly at Middlebury College and Vassar College. She published many articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Gabriela Mistral

Childhood & Early Life

  • Gabriela Mistral was born to Juan Ger�nimo Godoy Villanueva and Petronila Alcayaga. Her mother was of Basque descent while her father was a school teacher of Indian and Jewish descent. She also had one step-sister named Emelina who was fifteen years older to her.
  • She grew up in a world of poverty after her father abandoned his family leaving his wife and daughters to fend for themselves.She had begun to get her poems published in local newspapers from an early age.

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  • Gabriela Minstral began her career as a teacher’s aide at the age of fifteen. In spite of her lack of a solid foundation in formal education, her sister helped her to get a teaching job.
  • The suicide of her lover, a railway worker named Romelio Ureta, affected her deeply and had a profound influence on her works.
  • Her growing popularity as a poet also helped her in rising from one position to another.
  • She got the opportunity to teach in a number of schools in various Chilean cities. The government of her country awarded her the title “Teacher of the Nation” in 1923.
  • As she became increasingly famous for her works in the fields of education and poetry, she received many invitations to attend conferences and make speeches.
  • She also represented Chile as an honorary consul in Brazil, Spain, Portugal and the US.