The Influence of Sor Juana and Catalina de Erauso on Colonial Latin American Society

The Influence of Sor Juana and Catalina de Erauso on Colonial Latin American Society

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Colonial Latin American society in the Seventeenth Century was undergoing a tremendous amount of changes. Society was transforming from a conquering phase into a colonizing phase. New institutions were forming and new people and ideas flooded into the new lands freshly claimed for the Spanish Empire. Two remarkable women, radically different from each other, who lived during this period of change are a lenses through which many of the new institutions and changes can be viewed. Sor Juana and Catalina de Erauso are exceptional women who in no way represent the norm but through their extraordinary tales and by discovering what makes them so extraordinary we can deduce what was the norm and how society functioned during this era of Colonial Latin America.
The figures of Sor Juana and Catalina de Erauso are larger than life. They did things no other women (and most men) during the 17th century could have ever dreamed of. Sor Juana was a nun who, through her confined cloister, produced works of literature and theology that are now part of both the Mexican and Catholic Cannon. De Erauso on the hand roamed free, she abandoned her religious life and instead took up the garb of a man and set out for the New World. Both of these women did not do what women were expected to do. Sor Juana’s life in the covenant should have been one of quiet contemplation and De Erauso should have never left the covenant she was a part of. In addition not only did De Erauso abandon her vows but she attempted, and succeeded, at passing herself off as a man which allowed her to do things that, if her true identity was known, every apparatus available in the Empire would have brought her to swift justice. These women went against the norms of what was expected ...


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...oked to life in a covenant as a way to broaden their mind. Most women though did not share Sor Juana’s grand enthusiasm for a life of spiritual and material learning but they all were given an opportunity to learn more than they ever could outside the walls of their cloister. It provided an intellectual outlet for women who would have never had the option outside.
Colonial Latin American society during the 16th and 17th was undergoing many changes. Society was beginning to form lasting institutions and a well defined culture emerged out of it. The Spanish Crown was now beginning to exert more control over their colonies and the Catholic Church was solidifying its place atop an already highly religious society. The Crown’s new found control would last until the independence of the colonies and the Church influence lasts in those societies up until this very day.

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