The afterlife of an icon: The legacy of Gabriela Mistral
Glaser Danton, Maria Fernanda
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This dissertation examines the life and legacy of Gabriela Mistral from her birth to contemporary conceptions of her in the Elqui province of Chile where she was born. Gabriela Mistral was not only a Nobel Prize winning poet and a pioneering woman working in education and women’s rights, but an important Latin American intellectual and diplomat whose work helped determine ideas of nationhood and citizenry in Latin America. During her life and after her death, she was seen as a saint. Her biographies were written like hagiographies. This dissertation focuses on how Mistral was perceived and used by the nation. With the return of her archive to Chile in 2007 and the release of important personal photographs and letters, Gabriela Mistral’s personal identity as a lesbian became another contested issue in her iconic afterlife as a mother of the nation. In the final chapter of the dissertation, a regional ethnography in the Coquimbo region in Chile, where Mistral was born, investigates the changing legacy of this complex persona through collective memory. The dissertation concludes with suggestions toward a necessary new biography of the complex figure of Gabriela Mistral.