A Woman to Know: Rosario Castellanos

It isn't even enough to discover who we are. We have to invent ourselves. — Rosario

(image via Mexican Department of Culture)

In 1950s Mexico, Rosario Castellanos was an outlier. She was a woman living alone, teaching at Western institutions and exploring the intersectionality of race, gender and class in her own sliver of Mexico. Professors teach her poem "Valium 10" as South America's answer to Sylvia Plath. In the verses, she describes the anxiety of daily life:

The day turns into a mere succession
Of incoherent facts and functions
That you perform through habit and inertia.
And you live it.
And you dictate the letter to whom it may concern.


Rosario's other poems and prose works explored the politics and social barriers hindering Mexico's women, similar to the feminist awakening American women experienced with Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique." But the comparisons to other writers don't capture the profound impact Rosario's work was having in her own lifetime. Her magnum opus, "Sobre cultura femenina," was a rallying cry for young Mexican feminists looking to understand social justice and contemporary feminist politics. Scholars have described her work as "the starting point for the liberation of Mexican women."

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** Thank you to Casey Lurtz for turning me on to Rosario's poetry! I'm officially in love. **

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