Rosario Castellanos

Rosario Castellanos was born in Mexico City in 1925. One year after her birth, her family returned to the Chiapas village, near Guatemala, where they had originally come from. At 16, the family moved back to Mexico City, having left the ranch and lands where they had lived as these were seized in the government’s land reform programme of the 1930s.

Castellanos began writing poetry in 1940 and her work was imbued by the Chiapan identity and spirit.
Initially she tried to please her parents by studying law, but she soon abandoned that career, and in 1950 obtained her master’s degree in philosophy, from the Universidad Nacional de Mexico. Her thesis, Sobre cultura femenina, became the point of departure for the women’s movement.

In 1952, she worked with the Instituto Indigenista.

She was a prolific writer, producing volumes of poetry, novels, several short stories, plays, and collections of essays. In most, she explored the double reality of being a woman and a Mexican.

She is perhaps best known for her collection of stories Ciudad real, an informed portrait of the world of the Chamula Indigenous peoples. In order to write it, Castellanos spoke to anthropologists and doctors who were fighting to solve the problems of the region.

Many of her works have been translated to English, amongst other languages.


Trayectoria del polvo, 1948.

Looking at the Mona Lisa, published by Rivelin/Equatorial: Bradford, 1981.

Meditation on the Threshold: A Bilingual Anthology of Poetry, published by Bilingual Review Press: Tempe, Ariz., 1988.

A Rosario Castellanos Reader, published by University of Texas Press: Austin, 1988.

The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos, published by Graywolf Press: St. Paul’s, Minn., 1988.


Ciudad real, 1960.


Balún Canán, 1957. The Nine Guardians, published by Faber and Faber: London, 1959.