Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, who published under the name Gabriela Mistral, was born on April 7, 1889, in Vicuña, in the Elqui Valley of northern Chile. She held degrees from Universities in Florence and Guatemala. For many years, Mistral worked as a teacher and administrator, playing a vital role in the education systems of Mexico and Chile. In 1925, Mistral became the secretary of the Latin American section in the League of Nations in Paris.
In 1945, Mistral became the first Latin American writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1951, she received the Chilean National Prize in literature. Of Mistral's work, Ursula K. Le Guin writes, “What she was above all was a poet, self-taught, almost wholly self-made, who worked constantly, tirelessly, all her life, at her craft.”
In her lifetime, Mistral was a Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon, and taught Spanish literature in Columbia University, Vassar College, Middlebury College, and the University of Puerto Rico. She lived in New York for the last years of her life, and died of pancreatic cancer on January 10, 1957.