Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Born: 7 April 1889, Vicuña, Chile
Died: 10 January 1957, Hempstead, NY, USA
Residence at the time of the award: Chile
Prize motivation: "for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world."
Prize share: 1/1
Lucila Godoy Alcayaga was born in 1889 in Vicuna, Coquimbo in Chile. She was the daughter of a school teacher and poet, and Alcayaga herself began working as a teacher in her home district at the age of just 15. She continued working as a prominent educator until her poetry became known. She borrowed the pseudonym, Gabriela Mistral, from her favorite poets, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Frédéric Mistral. Lucila Godoy Alcayaga had several assignments within Latin American education systems, worked on various committees, and also served as the Chilean consul in several countries.
Gabriela Mistral's poems are characterized by strong emotion and direct language. They are also influenced by the modernist movement. Their central themes are love, deceit, sorrow, nature, travel, and love for children. Her first major work was Desolación, published in 1922. In 1924 came Ternura (Tenderness), which contains lullabies and rhymes for children, and later Tala (Felling) in 1938, which employs unusual imagery and free verse. Gabriela Mistral was also involved in sociopolitical issues and was a well-known op-ed writer for major newspapers in her home country of Chile. She was South America's first ever Nobel Laureate.