Letter from Gabriela Mistral, January 22, 1915, Concepción, Chile, to Manuel Magallanes Moure, Concepción, Chile


Gabriela Mistral (1889–1957), the pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, was an educator, diplomat, and poet, who in 1945 became the first Latin American author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in the northern city of Vicuña, Chile, Mistral developed an early interest in poetry, literature, the Bible, and the natural environment, particularly that of her childhood town of Monte Grande. Largely self-educated, she began working at age 15 as a teacher’s aide to support herself and her mother, and in 1910 she obtained a teaching certificate. She began regularly contributing articles to regional newspapers. Mistral traveled extensively throughout Chile and developed a keen awareness of the adverse economic and social conditions in the country. She wrote poetry, prose, and essays and carried on a rich correspondence with other intellectuals. In 1914, she won the grand prize in the Juegos Florales (Floral Games) poetry contest, with her Sonetos de la Muerte (The sonnets of death). Among the judges for this competition was the Chilean poet, Manuel Magallanes Moure (1878–1924), with whom Mistral had recently begun a correspondence. Their exchange of letters continued until 1923 and was for the most part kept secret, as Magallanes Moure was married and the connection with Mistral, a single woman, could have been regarded as inappropriate. The correspondence included some 80 letters and one telegram written by Mistral. She later destroyed most of Magallanes Moure’s letters (only five have survived), believing that he had done the same. Scholars debate the nature of the relationship between the two poets; some argue that it was based on mutual artistic appreciation, while others contend that the two were romantically involved. Shown here is one of the 24 letters by Mistral to Magallanes Moure in the catalog of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. The letters reflect different aspects of Mistral’s persona and show the vividness and range of her prose.

Last updated: January 8, 2018