Gabriela Mistral, the First Latin American Nobel Prize Winner
08/30/2010. When the Nobel Prize Award ceremonies resumed on December 10, 1945, —just a few months after the end of World War II— in Stockholm, Sweden, a Chilean woman, Gabriela Mistral, was presented with it.
Her features spoke with the marked and ancestral accent of the Mapuche people, the original inhabitants of that southern land, and she would be known and recognized as poet Gabriela Mistral, although her real name was Lucila Godoy.
It was the first Nobel Literature Prize for Latin America and the Caribbean and also the only one given so far to a female Spanish-speaking writer.
That school teacher had traveled a long way and she would also take on diplomatic responsibilities while representing Chile as consul in other countries in Europe and the Americas.
However, she owes her fame and prestige to her poetry —not only the one she wrote in solitude and heartbroken for the death of love, which adult readers devour, but also her songs and lullabies that children keep as a cherished possession.
Cuba and Mistral
Between trips, while she was preparing to update the education system of her country, Gabriela Mistral arrived for the first time in Cuba in July 1922; and despite the brevity of the visit, she found time to meet with writers and artists, to whom she said she had known the Caribbean nation through José Martí’s writings.
She visited Cuba several times and she developed close ties of affection with the great voices of local poetry such as then young authors Fina García Marruz, Serafina Núñez, Dulce Maria Loynaz and Mirta Aguirre.
She also met with intellectuals of the caliber of anthropologist Don Fernando Ortiz and essayist Juan Marinello, to whom she expressed her assessments of Jose Marti’s poetry and, particularly, of his ‘Versos Sencillos’ (Simple Verses), on which she gave a lecture in Havana that has been regarded as the most acute and subtle interpretation of this work.
During one of Gabriela Mistral’s trips, days before World War II began, the poet also addressed other issues like fascism and voiced her faith and passionate defense of peace.
Her collection of poems Tala was sold to Cuban readers and the money collected was a contribution to the cause of the Spanish Republic, amid the vicissitudes of the Spanish Civil War.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of José Martí’s birth, in January 1953, she visited the Caribbean country for the last time at the invitation of Cuban scholar Don Fernando Ortiz, to pay tribute to the Hero of Cuban independence.
Years later, the writer died in New York.
By: Ignacio M. Doubrechatt