“You Imagine Me, and I Exist”: The Afterlives of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Juana - You Imagine Me and I Exist

A two-day symposium and dramatic prequel to the premiere of the opera Juana

For questions, please contact cmh@schoolofmusic.ucla.edu

In Fall 2019, Opera UCLA will premiere the opera, Juana, by composer Carla Lucero with a libretto drawn from UCLA Professor Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s 1999 award-winning historical novel, Sor Juana’s Second Dream, about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695), the 17th-century Mexican nun, scholar, and renowned poet of colonial Mexico. Although Sor Juana is not well known in the United States, she is hailed the in Europe and Latin America as the Latina “Tenth Muse” and the “first feminist of the Americas,” Sor Juana is legendary today for her passionate defense of a woman’s right to be a scholar and to publish her work. In her lifetime, Sor Juana was relentlessly persecuted for her genius and her defiance of the Catholic Church’s dictates regarding the female sex. Because she refused to abide by these limitations, and because she had the support and backing of the Viceregal court, at least until 1688, Juana’s celebrity flourished in her own lifetime, and she saw two volumes of her collected works published in Spain. In 1694, to mark her 25th anniversary as a “bride of Christ,” Sor Juana renounced her scholarly life, her extensive library, and her correspondence with the world and renewed her vows to the Hieronymite order in a document she signed in her own blood. She died a year later, in 1695, while caring for her fellow nuns during an epidemic. What happened to this most accomplished and rebellious of colonial women, this most enlightened mind of the Spanish Golden Age? Why did she forsake everything that had given meaning to her cloistered life?


This 2-day symposium is a dramatic prequel to the opera JUANA that explores the multiple “afterlives” of Sor Juana, i.e., the many ways in which the famous/infamous nun has been represented — from 17th- and 18th century visual and literary portraits to 20th- and 21st-century historical novels, poetry, plays, films, musical performances, visual arts, and even a Netflix mini-series. The title of the symposium, ‘You Imagine Me, and I Exist,’ comes from the English translation of an unfinished poem that was found in Sor Juana’s cell after her death in 1695 (proving that she never stopped writing). It was addressed to her supporters in Spain, and she was thanking them for “breathing another spirit into [her],” that is, giving her work new life by representing her, not as she was — a nun struggling (as she put it) to “learn more [and] be ignorant about less” — but as they wanted to imagine her: a great intellectual, a sublime poet, a phoenix rising from the ashes.

This Symposium will provide the campus community at large, but particularly students and faculty of the Herb Alpert School of Music, and those in the Divisions of Social Sciences and Humanities, as well as the broader Los Angeles community, an opportunity to learn about the life, history, and culture of this enigmatic subject of the opera, and to listen to the music produced in colonial Mexican convents.

Day 1
Friday, November 22

Royce 314

Kerckhoff Art Gallery

  • 3-4:30 pm – Sor Juana Exhibition Walkthrough and Reception, Presentation by artist Alma López (UCLA LGBTQ Studies and Chicana/o Studies)

Freud Playhouse

  • 8pm – Juana premiere, tickets available here.
Day 2
Saturday November 23

Royce 314

  • 9am – Registration and Continental Breakfast
  •  10am – 11:30am – Panel 3: ComuArte: Coordinadora Internacional de Mujeres en el Arte
    • Carla Lucero & Olga Talamante (Directors, USA)
    • Dr. Leticia Armijo (General Director & Founder, International, Mexico)
    • Dr. Carmen Cecilia Piñero (Director, España)
    • Valeria Valle, Natalie Santíbañez Pellegrini, Fernanda Carrasco, Katherine Bachmann, and Maria Carolina López (Directors, Chile)
  • 11:30am-1:30pm – Closing Performance of ComuArte compositions
    • “Sor Juana” by Leticia Armijo (General Director, International)
    • “Redencion de las aguas claras” by Katherine Bachmann (Co-Director, Chile)
    • “Lamento” by Fernanda Carrasco (Co-Director, Chile)
    • “Tres de trébol de cuatro hojas” by Maria Carolina López (Co-Director, Chile)
    • “Crisol” by Valeria Valle (General Director, Chile)
    • “Ni una Mas, Ni una Menos” video presentation by Natalie Santíbañez Pellegrini and Mamma Soul
  • 2pm-3pm – Closing Reception

Lodging Information

This symposium does not have a dedicated conference hotel. The links below are to hotels within a 5 mile radius of the UCLA Campus.

Getting to Campus


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is eager to provide a variety of accommodations and services for access and communications. If you would like to request accommodations, please do so 10 days in advance of the event by emailing ADA@schoolofmusic.ucla.edu or calling (310) 825-0174.

Walking directions to Schoenberg Hall elevators and all-gender restrooms from handicap parking spots

Event Co-Sponsors

Chancellor ($2500+)
  • UCLA College of Letters and Science, Division of Humanities
  • UCLA Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies & Clark Memorial Library
  • UCLA Center for Musical Humanities
  • UCLA Arts Initiative
Dean ($2000-2499)
  • UCLA Division of Social Sciences
Aficionada/o ($1500-1999)

UCLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Collaborator ($1000-1499)
  • UCLA LGBTQ Studies
  • UCLA Cesar Chavez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies
  • UCLA Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Supporter ($500-999)
  • UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center
  • UCLA School of Arts and Architecture
Co-Sponsor ($250-499)
  • UCLA Center for the Study of Women
  • UCLA Center for Mexican Studies

“You Imagine Me, and I Exist”: The Afterlives of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Juana - You Imagine Me and I Exist