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sor juana

The Death of the Phoenix of México

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Querida Sor Juana/ Dear Sor Juana was originally conceived as a dramatic reading of the letters of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1696) for the Bay Area Women’s Theatre Festival (BAWTF). It was to be staged in March 2020 at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino, in the heart of San Francisco’s Latinx community. Covid-19 postponed the event, but like the phoenix, it rises again as Querida Sor Juana: The Death of the Phoenix of México .

Created by local Latnix theater artist Carolina MoronesQuerida Sor Juana is a fan letter to the poet nun of Mexico for her feminist contributions to the question of women’s rights and education. Morone’s dramatization of Sor Juana’s writing celebrates a Latinx cultural icon at a time when this community is under strain due to pandemic hardship, immigration policies, and rhetorical attacks in the social and political arena.

In this production Morones investigates themes relevant to Bay Area residents such as censorship, women’s physical and intellectual autonomy. Relentlessly censored by church and state, Sor Juana’s prolific work as a scholar, poet, and playwright in the 17th century garnered her recognition as “ the 10th muse of Mexico”. However, her writings were considered heretical and unbecoming of a woman to such an extent that both her intellectual and physical autonomy were challenged and ultimately controlled by those in power.

Extremely popular in her time, her life ended in a secluded monastery during an outbreak of plague, which further echoes our current times. Her timeless themes continue to resonate in a community grappling with the same questions. As Sor Juana wrote in response to the Bishop of the city of Mexico challenging his order to censor her “how can it be: that we, as women, are praised and shown off for our brilliance while our rights, human rights, are being stripped away?”

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