The life of this famous seventeenth-century nun is characterized by an uncommon love for learning. Born on November 12, 1651 (or 1648 according to some biographers) in the village of San Juan Nepantla, south of Mexico City, Juana de Asbaje Ramírez was a precocious learner. At the age of three she learned how to read and continued to read and study for the rest of her life. She studied in Mexico City, where she was the protégée of the viceroy’s wife, the Countess of Mancera, to whom she devoted her early poems. Brilliant and beautiful, she was much courted by the men who surrounded her at the Viceroy’s court. Soon it became necessary for the young woman to choose among the only paths that the society offered to someone of her time, place and gender. Confronted with the choice between matriomony and the cloister, she opted for the latter due to her strong aversion to marriage. During her twenty-seven years of religious life, Sor Juana devoted herself assiduously to her studies. Her cell became the meeting place for many contemporary intellectuals and literary figures. She was a prolific writer and until her death in 1695 authored many poems, plays, and philosophical and religious writings.
Beginning with the line Hombres necios que acusáis (“Foolish men who accuse”), the Sátira Filosófica (Philosophical Satire) of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz exposes with clear lucidity the mechanisms that construct female identity and subject it to male hypocritical judgment. Published in the first edition of her works, Inundación castálida (Madrid, 1689), this pivotal text in the history of gender representation in the New World reveals the possibility of using reason, which historically had been the domain of men, to denounce male authority and its moral double standards. Despite its having been produced in a society obsessed with female chastity and honor, this text denounces male norms of female behavior.