Cementerio Monte Grande, Paihuano, Región de Coquimbo, Chile
Lucila Godoy Alcayaga (7 April 1889 – 10 January 1957), known by her pseudonym Gabriela Mistral, was a Chilean poet-diplomat, educator and humanist. In 1945 she became the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature, "for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world". Some central themes in her poems are nature, betrayal, love, a mother's love, sorrow and recovery, travel, and Latin American identity as formed from a mixture of Native American and European influences. Her portrait also appears on the 5,000 Chilean peso bank note.
The image of Gabriela Mistral is the subject of a recent controversy. During the 1970s and 1980s, the image of Gabriela Mistral was appropriated by the military dictatorship of Pinochet presenting her as a symbol of "submission to the authority" and "social order". Views of her as a saint-like celibate and suffering heterosexual woman have been challenged by author Licia Fiol-Matta who contends that she was rather a closet lesbian. Chilean poet Volodia Teitelboim has however declared he has not found any traces indicative of lesbianism in her writings. When the thesis of the lesbianism of Mistral was put forward in the early 2000s, some of her personal letters were published showing she had an exchange of love letters with a male poet. Mistral had diabetes and heart problems. Eventually she died of pancreatic cancer in Hempstead Hospital in New York City on 10 January 1957, being 67 years of age, with Doris Dana by her side. Her remains were returned to Chile nine days later. The Chilean government declared three days of national mourning, and hundreds of thousands of mourners came to pay her their respects.
Doris Dana remained as the executor of Mistral's works and avoided publishing them in Chile until the poet was no longer recognized by what corresponded to her worldly stature. She even received an invitation from the government of President Ricardo Lagos Escobar, which she gently declined.
In her will, Mistral stipulated that the money produced by her book sales in South America should be directed toward the impoverished children of Monte Grande, the place in which she herself spent the best years of her infancy. She also requested that the money produced by sales throughout the rest of the world should go to Doris Dana and Palma Guillén, who renounced this inheritance for the benefit of the impoverished children of Chile. The poet's petition could not be carried out due to decree 2160, which derives the funds to publishers and intellectuals. The decree was repealed and the profits generated from Gabriela's works actually went towards the children of Monte Grande in Elqui Valley.
The niece of Doris Dana, Doris Atkinson, finally donated the literary legacy of Mistral to the government ― more than 40,000 documents, which are currently kept safe in the archives of the National Library of Chile, including the 250 letters chosen by Zegers for their publication.
Her remains arrived in Chile on 19 January 1957 and were watched over in the central house of the University of Chile to later be buried in Monte Grande, which was her wish. Once she mentioned that she would like the hill of Monte Grande to be named in her honor; her request was carried out after her death on 7 April 1991, on the day that would have been her 102nd birthday. The street Fraile hill changed names to Gabriela Mistral.
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