Meridith Hatch (IAS '10) is spending five weeks in Cuernavaca, Mexico, as part of a UW Tacoma Spanish language immersion program.

I first learned of Juan Ruiz de Alarcón while on a guided tour of the Santa Prisca Cathedral in the city of Taxco. As we were viewing a series of portraits painted by Miguel Cabrera, our guide explained how one portrait featured Ruiz de Alarcón, a poet and one of the earliest prominent writers in Mexican history.

Born in Taxco in 1581, Ruiz de Alarcón was known for his wordplay and puns. Ruiz de Alarcón had physical deformities that left him lame, a trait shared by the Queen of Austria at the time. Our guide related how Ruiz de Alarcón made a bet with his friends that he could could call the queen “lame”, or coja in Spanish, without offending her.

He sent someone to visit the queen, deliver cut flowers and read her the following line of poetry: "Entre el clavel blanco y la rosa roja, su majestad /es/coja” (“Among the white carnation and the red rose, your majesty chooses/ OR is/lame”). According to the story, Ruiz de Alarcón won the bet.

While walking through Taxco I found this statue commemorating Ruiz de Alarcón, the poet. I bet he would have been interesting to know, though I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of his sharp wit.

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