Both students and teachers took part in celebrations throughout Chile earlier this month in order to mark Gabriela Mistral’s birthdate, known since 1999 as the National Day of Rural Education.
Better known for her work as poet, which saw her win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945, Mistral had a long history working as a teacher in schools throughout Chile. Her work inspired children along the country.
Born in Vicuña, in the Elqui Valley, Mistral’s first steps in the teaching world were as an assistant to her mother in the local public schools. As her reputation grew as both a poet and educator, she was invited to Mexico to help build the first public school system there.
The National Day of Rural Education acknowledges the greater challenges faced by those living in more remote or agricultural area. Particularly praising the great effort of rural families and teachers to ensure an education for their children in the face of adversity such as considerably longer travel times to arrive for class.
Mistral taught in schools between Antofagasta in the north and Punta Arenas in the south. While teaching in the Araucanía region, she came across a young man who would later become known as Pablo Neruda and, following in her footsteps, also win literature’s greatest honor.
2014 marked 125 years since the birth of Chile’s greatest female writer, and the celebrations extended throughout the country.
Doris Atkinson, the most recent winner of the Nobel Prize, said in a visit to Chile that she was impressed with how the country has honored Mistral’s legacy. After the death of her aunt Doris Dana, Atkinson donated a large number of archives relating to Mistral to Chile.
“It completely exceeds what we imagined could be done with the material. The work in Vicuña flows through the life of Mistral and also opens her legacy to children. It’s perfectly conceived, the design of the museum is magnificent. Everyone must go there,” Atkinson said at Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM).
Atkinson claimed that while the world knew all about Neruda, Mistral’s work still remains somewhat of a secret to the worldwide population, adding that hopes to see more English language translations to spread the work of the great poet.