Mistral’s works, both in verse and prose, deal with the basic passion of love as seen in the various relationships of mother and offspring, man and woman, individual and humankind, soul and God.
A dedicated educator and an engaged and committed intellectual, Mistral defended the rights of children, women, and the poor; the freedoms of democracy; and the need for peace in times of social, political, and ideological conflicts, not only in Latin America but in the whole world. She always took the side of those who were mistreated by society: children, women, Native Americans, Jews, war victims, workers, and the poor, and she tried to speak for them through her poetry, her many newspaper articles, her letters, and her talks and actions as Chilean representative in international organizations.
But it is her poems on food that I most love as shown in these delicious samples:
Flour: Smooth flour, sliding more silently than water, can sift across a naked child without waking him.
Salt: The salt that bleaches the seagull’s belly and crackles in the penguin’s breast, and that in mother-of-pearl plays with colors that are not its own.
The Pineapple: A warrior fruit scared from the chest of an Amazon. And contained in this concise capsule, the whiff of a scent that can perfume a field.
Writing tends to make me happy; it always soothes my spirit and bestows on me an innocent, gentle, childlike day. It is the feeling of having spent a few hours in my true homeland, in my habits, in my unfettered impulses, in full freedom.
Here are some interesting facts about Gabriela Mistral:
Gabriela Mistral is her pen name. She was born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga in Vincuna, Chile. She acknowledged wanting for herself the fiery spiritual strength of the archangel Gabriel and the strong, earthly, and spiritual power of the wind.
She was the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945)
In Paris, she worked with Marie Curie in the League of Nations.
Proceeds from her children’s book Tala were donated to a hostel for orphans of the Spanish Civil War.
In 1956 she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. A few weeks later, in the early hours of 10 January 1957, Mistral died in a hospital in Hempstead, Long Island. Her last word was “triunfo” (triumph). After a funeral ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the body of this pacifist woman was flown by military plane to Santiago, where she received the funeral honors of a national hero. Following her last will, her remains were eventually put to rest in a simple tomb in Monte Grande, the village of her childhood.
What the soul is to the body, so is the artist to his people, she once stated, and these words were also inscribed on her tomb.