Pictured right is an image of Martin Behaim’s 1492 globe of the world, used by Christopher Columbus among other New World explorers in their quest to find the East Indies.  The island labelled “Cipangu” was thought to refer to modern-day Japan.  It was expeditions poised to confirm maps like these that spurred Spain among other nations to explore westward, a major precursor to Spanish colonialism in North and South America.


Pictured left is a “narrative” or chronicle from Hernán Cortés to King Ferdinand II of Aragón, discussing the city of Tenochtitlán, conquered by the Spanish in 1521. Cortés’s occupation of Tenochtitlán, then renamed Mexico City, ultimately led to the death of the Aztec empire, and the beginning of Spanish control over modern-day Mexico. Cortés’s writings in regard to the native Americans’ supposed barbarism and immorality were among many contributors that led to the strong Catholic presence to follow in Mexico City.


Pictured right is the catechism published by the Catholic Church in 1564 in accordance with the dogma solidified between the years 1545 and 1563 at the Council of Trent.  The primary purpose of the Council of Trent was to explicitly define heresies committed in the church, as contained in this document, and condemn newly-propagated Protestant viewpoints. One key objective of this catechism was in establishing the church as the ultimate interpreter of the Holy Scriptures, thus invalidating Sor Juana’s right to argue from the Bible (as she was not ordained by the church to do so) before she was even born.


Pictured left is an official edict of the Catholic Church to begin preparation for the Spanish Inquisition to establish a presence in New Spain for the eradication of “heretical evil.” The Inquisition itself was formally established in the New World in 1571 in Mexico City.  Sor Juana’s bravery in composing “Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz” is particularly striking, then, when considering that the threat and perhaps tyranny of the Inquisition had been looming in her own city throughout the entirety of her life.


Pictured right is a publication of Antonio Vieira’s “Sermon de el Mandato” that Sor Juana would criticize some forty years later in “Carta Athenagórica.”  Sor Juana, ultimately, would not criticize him for the content of his message, or the point of his sermon, but rather for the way in which he invoked theological authority to prove his point instead appealing to rational and Biblical examples.


Pictured left is documentation of Sor Juana entering the convent of San Gerónimo in Mexico City in 1669.  It is particularly noteworthy that her affirmation and vows are signed by Sor Juana in her own blood.  While close reading of “Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz” suggests that she entered the convent primarily to study and not to devote herself to religion, this document suggests that whatever her motives were, her passion toward them was incredibly strong.


Pictured right is a copy of Letter Worthy of Athena, published in Madrid in 1690.  It is revealed in “Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz” that this publication was against her will, but was forwarded and instigated by the bishop of Puebla, Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz. In the context of the ongoing Spanish Inquisition, it is particularly striking that Fernández chose to publish Sor Juana’s name on such a “heretical” document in such large letters, while he underwent the pseudonym of Sor Phylotea de la Cruz.


Pictured left is a painting of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz by Miguel Cabrera thought to have been finished in the year 1750.  While it was common of the time period for nuns to be painted whilst holding a book, presumably a Bible, it is noteworthy that unlike many portraits of nuns, which either have neutral backgrounds or the context of a humble convent, Sor Juana is proudly displayed alongside a large collection of books, which is presumably how she’d want to be remembered.

Behaim, Martin. “MapCipangu.” Austincc.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016. <http://sites.austincc.edu/caddis/wp-content/uploads/sites/106/2016/01/MartinBehaim1492MapCipangu.png>.

Hernán, Cortés. Praeclara Ferdinãdi… N.p.: Impressa in Celebri Ciuitate Norimberga … : Per Fridericum Peypus Arthimesius, 1524. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Manutium, Paulum. Canones, Et Decreta Sacrosancti Oecumenici Et Generalis Concilii Tridentini…. Rome: Catholic Church, 1564. Print.

Pope Pius V. Nos Don [blank] Hazemos Saber a Todos Los Vezinos Y Moradores De Todas Las Ciudades… 1569. Vatican City.

Vieira, Antonio. Sermon De El Mandato. N.p.: Por Iulian De Paredes, 1646. Print.


Ines De La Cruz, Sor Juana. Carta Athenagórica. Los Angeles: Diego Fernandez De Leon, 1690. Print.

Miguel, Cabrera. Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz. 1750. Oil on canvas. N.p.