Adding to his already impressive corpus of poems in Latin hexameters on subjects from Mexican history, the contemporary Mexican poet, Francisco José Cabrera, has published his Joannae Virginis Laudes , in Monumenta Mexicana (Mexico City, 2004), which has translations into English by William Cooper.
Born ca. 1648 as an illegitimate daughter of a Spanish soldier and a Mexican woman, the young Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, early exhibited her Intelligence, talent, and enthusiasm for all branches of learning. Living in a male-dominated society that severely restricted the activities of women, she nevertheless managed to impress important personages with her passion for learning and intellect. Her wide-ranging studies ranged from literature to the sciences and mathematics. She died in 1695.
Upon taking Carmelite religious orders in 1677, she became known as Sor Juana de la Cruz, and using this name she made extensive contributions to Neo-Latin poetry, the range and importance of which are passed in review by the noted Mexican scholar, Tarsicio Herrera Zapién, in his two books, Historia del Humanismo Mexicano (Mexico, 2000), pp. 97-119, and Buena fe y humanismo en Sor Juana (Mexico, 1984).
In his poem, Cabrera makes manifest his love for Sor Juana as he passes the course of her life in review and highlights her many achievements in the arts of letters of Mexico. This passion for his subject reflects the lofty regard in which she is held by Mexicans, who have honored her with the sobriquet of “The Tenth Muse,” “La décima Musa.”
In my paper I discuss Cabrera’s poetic technique as manifested in his metrics, his imagery, and his use of historical sources in the composition of his poem.