Distant Neighbors: Twentieth-Century Mexican Literature

Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974)

The Nine Guardians


  • Born in 1925 in Mexico City; spent much of her childhood at her family's sugar and coffee plantations in Comitan, Chiapas, a small town near the border between Mexico and Guatemala.
  • Received a graduate degree in philosophy from National University, Mexico City, in 1950; studied aesthetics at University of Madrid, Spain
  • Married philosopher Ricardo Guerra in 1958; one child; divorced 1971.
  • Died of accidental electrocution in 1974 in Tel Aviv, Israel, was(ironically) buried in the rotunda of Illustrious Men in Mexico City.


  • Worked with Indian theater groups and the Indigenous Institute of San Cristóbal early in her career; taught journalism and literature at National University, Mexico City for a large part of the sixties and early seventies and served as a visitng fellow at the Universities of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Colorado.
  • Served as Mexican ambassador to Israel, 1971-74.
  • Writing reflected a life-long commitment to the plight of the Native Indians, fuelled by an awareness, from childhood experience, of their mistreatment by the Europeanized Mexican population.
  • Also a strong feminist, whose consciousness of the social/economic gulf between the powerful and powerless in her country was complicated by her awareness of the disempowerment of women in both traditions.
  • Although best known for her fiction, also wrote poetry, plays, and essays.
  • Won numerous awards for her writing culminating in her being named "Woman of the Year" in Mexico and receiving the Premio Carlos Trouyet award for her entire oeuvre in 1967 and the Sourasky Prize for Literature in 1971. Balún-Canán (The Nine Guardians) voted best novel of the year in 1957.

Selected Writings (*indicates a work available in English translation)

*Balún-Canán (novel), 1957. Tr. as The Nine Guardians by Irene Nicholson, 1959.
Poemas (1953-1955) (poetry), 1957.
*Ciudad Real (short stories), 1960. Tr. as City of Kings by Robert S. Rudder and Gloria Chacon de Arjona, 1992.
Livida luz (poetry), 1960.
Oficio de tinieblas (novel), 1962.
Los convidados de agosto (short stories), 1964.
Materia memorable (nonfiction), 1969.
Album de familia (novella and short stories), 1971.
*Poesia no eres tu; obra poetica, 1948-1971 (poetry), 1972. Bilingual edition published as Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos, tr. by Magda Bogin, 1988.
El eterno femenino (play), 1975.
A Rosario Castellanos Reader, tr by Maureen Ahern, 1988.
Another Way to Be: Selected Works, tr. and ed. by Myralyn F. Allgood, 1990.

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volume 131, Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 58, and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 66.  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com.  

    Other Gale resources include the Dictionary of Hispanic Biography; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 113 (contains portrait); Dictionary of Twentieth Century Culture, ed. Peter Standish, Volume 4: "Hispanic Culture of Mexico, Central America, and the Carribbean;" Hispanic Literature Criticism, Volume 1; Hispanic Writers; and Major Twentieth Century Writers.

  • Additional print resources for biographical and critical information:

    • Maureen Ahern's introduction to A Rosario Castellanos Reader.
    • Frank Dauster, The Double Strand: Five Contemporary Mexican Poets.
    • Doris Meyer, ed. Lives on the Line: The Testimony of Contemporary Latin American Authors, 1988.
    • Joanna O'Connell, Prospero's Daughter: The Prose of Rosario Castellanos, 1995.
    • Naomi Lindstrom, Women's voice in Latin American Literature, 1989.
    • Thompson, Judith Lee Warwick, The Evolution of the Mexican Indigenist Narrative in the Twentieth Century.
    • Thomas Washington, The Narrative Works of Rosario Castellanos: In Search of History--Confrontations with Myth, 1982.

    Periodicals, Guides, Collections

    • Maureen Ahern, "A Critical Bibliography of and about the Works of Rosario Castellanos, in Homenaje a Rosario Castellanos, 1992.
    • Helene M. Anderson, "Rosario Castellanos and the Structures of Power," in Contemporary Women Authors of Latin America: Introductory Essays, 1983.
    • The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature, ed. Claire Buck, 1992.
    • Frank Dauster, "Success and the Latin American Writer," in Contemporary Women Authors of Latin America: Introductory Essays, 1983.
    • Dictionary of Mexican Literature, ed. Eladio Cortes, 1992.
    • Francis Donahue, "Mexico: Indians and Women," Cimarron-Revoew, no. 86 (1989): 63-74.
    • Feminist Writers, ed. Pamela Kester-Shelton, St. James Press, 1996.
    • Angel Flores, Spanish Anerican Authors: The Twentieth Century, 1992.
    • Modern Women Writers, ed. Lillian S. Robinson, 4 vols., 1996.
    • Humor, Volume 2, number 1, 1989, pp. 19-30.
    • Latin American Literary Review, fall/winter, 1977; spring/summer, 1984.
    • Modern Language Studies, summer, 1983.
    • New York Times, March 25, 1990; New York Times Book Review, June 5, 1960.

Retired Discussion Series

Debbie Sturman, Director
425 South Main Street, P O Box 510
Lusk, WY 82225-0510
Phone: 307-334-3490
© 2020, Niobrara County Library