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Photo: Wikimexico.com
Photo: Wikimexico.com

Mexican poet and author, Rosario Castellanos died on this day in 1974

On Aug. 7, 1974, Mexican poet died of electrocution in a domestic accident. Despite her early death, she is one of the most important writers of her time.

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Rosario Castellanos was born in Mexico City on May 25, 1925, and was raised in Chiapas, where she learned about indigenous culture and the racial problems they have to face to fit within society. 

Her childhood in Comitán became very important for her writing as the social problems and intersectionality were later translated into her work. 

The time that Castellanos spent in Chiapas helped her understand the obstacles that certain groups have to overcome while fighting power structures that, even today, still exist in Mexico.

Later on in life, Castellanos moved back to Mexico City to study college at UNAM, being one of the few women that had access to higher education during those years.

College was the place where the poet suffered discrimination as a woman for the first time. It was there she first understood her role as a woman in a minority group, whose opinion wasn’t valued back then.

The ’50s and the ’60s were also periods of time in Mexico’s literature without a place for women.

Because of this, Castellanos decided to focus her work on themes such as racial discrimination towards indigenous people in Chiapas, politics, and, in particular, gender oppression.

Since she had lived all these experiences first hand, Castellanos became a voice in Mexico that opened the path to more women to come and open the debate about these topics. 

Castellanos' writing style was different from others of her time because she embarked on issues without giving easy solutions to them. In her narrative, characters were presented as normal people with virtues and defects, without being exotic for the fact they were "different" from the norm. 

After her years as a faculty member at UNAM, in 1971, the poet and writer became Mexico’s ambassador to Israel where she died. The official version states that Castellanos was electrocuted in a domestic accident, however, there are several versions of the story.

Here are three books to get to know the author and her work:

Balún Canán 

A non-fiction novel where Castellanos talks about her childhood experiences in Chiapas. Through personal anecdotes, the writer presents the struggles between white landowners and indigenous people during the reform years of Lázaro Cárdenas presidency. 

Ciudad Real

A compilation of short stories where the author denounces the miserable conditions in which the indigenous people of Ciudad Real — today known as San Cristóbal de las Casas — endure. The text was awarded in 1960 with Xavier Villaurrutia Prize.

Sobre cultura femenina (On women’s culture)

In this intelligent essay, the author questions the existence of something such as women’s culture. Castellanos analyzes the thinking process of the time while also offering an insight into its lack of intellectual precision. 

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