This America of Ours: The Letters of Gabriela Mistral and Victoria Ocampo

This America of Ours: The Letters of Gabriela Mistral and Victoria Ocampo

This America of Ours: The Letters of Gabriela Mistral and Victoria Ocampo

This America of Ours: The Letters of Gabriela Mistral and Victoria Ocampo

Synopsis

Gabriela Mistral and Victoria Ocampo were the two most influential and respected women writers of twentieth-century Latin America. Mistral, a plain, self-educated Chilean woman of the mountains who was a poet, journalist, and educator, became Latin America' first Nobel Laureate in 1945. Ocampo, a stunning Argentine woman of wealth, wrote hundreds of essays and founded the first-rate literary journal Sur. Though of very different backgrounds, their deep commitment to what they felt was "their" America forged a unique intellectual and emotional bond between them. This collection of the previously unpublished correspondence between Mistral and Ocampo reveals the private side of two very public women. In these letters (as well as in essays that are included in an appendix), we see what Mistral and Ocampo thought about each other and about the intellectual and political atmosphere of their time (including the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the dictatorships of Latin America) and particularly how they negotiated the complex issues of identity, nationality, and gender within their wide-ranging cultural connections to both the Americas and Europe.

Excerpt

This first publication of an extended collection of letters between two modern Latin American women documents the unpredictably close friendship between Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) of Chile and Victoria Ocampo (1890–1979) of Argentina. It would be difficult to imagine two writers more dissimilar in background and upbringing, appearance and habit, not to mention literary careers. Yet because of their accomplishments, they shared an anomalous status as celebrities in their own countries and internationally. They were arguably the two most influential women of twentieth-century Latin America if one considers that their influence derived from their own authority, rather than from marriage to famous men (à la Eva Perón or Frida Kahlo).

Despite their differences, they had more than a little in common. Both Mistral and Ocampo lived their adult lives as single women. While their public worlds were principally male, they lived in predominantly female households. They both claimed pride in their Basque heritage, and they took an unorthodox approach to religion. Both were physically imposing women in societies that prized petiteness. in their letters and visits, they shared their love of the open countryside and seashore. Because they led unconventional lives, they were controversial figures, subject to false rumors and mythologies that plagued them all their lives. and to their mutual surprise and delight, they had the same birthday, April seventh, one year apart. This became a touchstone in their letters; no matter where they were living, they sent affectionate messages to one another on that date.

Stubborn and nonconforming, both women described themselves as having “violent” dispositions, which Ocampo would express in explosive bursts of temper and Mistral by reciting accusations of real and imagined wrongs. Both women, above all, felt passionately about distinct aspects of their American condition, which they perceived from a transnational, Latin American perspective. They both cared deeply about fostering spiritual unity and moral purpose among fellow Americans in the context of the continent’s truncated modernity. Yet their . . .

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