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Guadalupe Amor; Popular, Outrageous Mexican Poet

Obituaries

May 15, 2000|From a Times Staff Writer

Guadalupe Amor, a legendary Mexican poet and scandalous figure among Mexico City's literary elite, has died.

Amor died last Monday in Mexico City of pneumonia. She was 81.

Known more commonly as Pita, the prolific Amor published more than 25 volumes of poetry. Most notable among her works are her first book, "Yo Soy Mi Casa" (I Am My House), published in 1946; "Polvo" (Dust), published in 1949; and "Decimas a Dios" (Poems to God), published in the early 1950s.

But her writing career fell off after the death of her toddler son in 1961. She then became a figure far more noted for her outrageous behavior than for influential writing.

"Guadalupe Amor is Mexico's greatest and most ignored poet of the first part of the 20th century," said Michael Schuessler, head of the Latin American studies department at United States International University in Mexico City.

Schuessler wrote a book on Amor called "The 11th Muse: Guadalupe Amor." Although unpublished in the United States, it is in its fourth printing in Mexico.

Born in 1918, Amor was the youngest of seven children. Her parents were upper class but lost their land as the result of the revolution and moved to Mexico City, where Pita was born. Amor was exposed to art at an early age through her sister Ines, who ran a gallery in Mexico City.

A striking woman, Amor was for a time an important model for painters such as Diego Rivera, Juan Soriano, Raul Anguiano and Antonio Pelaez.

She did not begin to write poetry until the early 1940s. Although she wrote in such classical forms as the sonnet, the content was unconventional. She also favored the decima, a 10-line poem or stanza.

"Her poetry was metaphysical, at the same time bordering on mystical and heretical," said Schuessler.

"Her work was very popular among intellectuals in Mexico," he added, "but at the same time some of her work--the decimas--were also popular with the working class."

Amor became a leading figure in Mexico City, hosting a television program in the early 1950s, but her offbeat style and tastes sometimes brought criticism. On one occasion, she drew the wrath of the city's powerful league of decency when she recited works of the mystic poets St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross while wearing a dress that members of the league considered risque.

On other occasions she might show up at a formal party wearing just a mink coat, which she would willingly shed.

Alfonso Reyes, one of Mexico's most important literary figures of the first part of the 20th century, once said of her, "Forget hateful comparisons--with Pita we are talking about a mythological phenomenon."

That "phenomenon" was drastically altered in the early 1960s after her 19-month-old son drowned at the home of one of her sisters. From that point, Pita, who had never married, became a solitary character, wandering the city, often in heavy makeup, carrying a cane and exhibiting an outrageous manner. She would use the cane on anyone who tried to touch her. She might wander into restaurants and offer impromptu recitations of her poetry to stunned diners for tips.

"The last 20 years of her life she spent in seclusion, saying that everyone she knew either died or betrayed her," said Schuessler. "She was harsh to the lower classes, telling beggars in the street to get up and go to work."

Although her works were never published in English, she is considered one of the leading poets of 20th century Mexico. Mexico City newspapers were filled with news of her death last week and stories about her colorful life and career.

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