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Madre María de San José (Juana de San Diego Palacios Berruecos)

Other names/titles:
Gender: F
Ethnic origin: White

Biographical details

Born on 25 April 1656, she wished to become a nun, but her family could not afford the entrance fee. For nearly thirty years she thus "lived a religious life of fasting, devotion and penance" within the family ranch before entering a convent. She wrote her autobiography. Her confessor lost ten of her thirty notebooks and a different confessor ordered her to rewrite them. (Scott, 223)

She was probably born on a rural hacienda in Tepeaca, Puebla State in 1656. She was baptised Juana de San Diego after her padrino, but changed her name on entering the convent. Two of her elder sisters were nuns: Leonor de San José was a Carmelite nun in Puebla City. She entered the nunnery in 1673 aged 22 years. In 1710 Leonor founded a Carmelite convent in Guadalajara. She was María's spiritual guide. Her sister Francisca de la Encarnación went to the more relaxed Convent of San Jerónimo, Puebla in the mid-1670s. This proved expensive to the family as they had to provide a dowry, although eventually the bishop paid it. So María was impeded from becoming a nun by her guardian brother, Tomás, (for financial reasons) and her sister Augustina (as she had raised María since she was aged five and was fond of her sister) although her mother and sister Leonor approved and helped her. At the sixth attempt she entered the convent of Santa Mónica, Puebla City, on 10 September 1687, partly helped by the marriage of another sister whose in-laws were members of the Puebla church hierarchy. She became an Augustinian Recollect nun and never saw most of her family again, but did briefly meet her brother and Agustina in 1697 when she was on her way to open the convent of Nuestra Señora de la Soldedad, Oaxaca. She wrote over 2,000 pages of her life story during a 25 year period between 1691 and 1717. She died in 1719. (Myers, Powell, 249-265, 343)

Her father, Luis Palacios, read religious books to her; he died when she was 11 and left her his hair shirts, which she wore during prayers. Her mother Antonia Berruecos had spiritual qualities that she passed on to her daughters. Berruecos was brought up in Puebla City. When she married Luis Palacios he forbade her ever to leave their hacienda. After Palacios's death she ran the hacienda with her oldest son, Tomás. Tomás and Berruecos often disagreed, especially about the futures her daughters. María de San José portrays her brother as difficult and who impeded her wishes to become a nun. Her mother colluded with the bishop of Puebla to make this possible. She taught novices at the convent. (Myers, 1993, 2, 42-46)

Life Events

Born 1656She was born on 25 April 1656.
Other 1687She entered the Convent of Santa Mónica, Puebla.
Died 1719


Smith, Verity, (1997), Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature

Myers, Kathleen, (1993), Word from New Spain: The Spiritual Autobiography of Madre María de San José (1656-1719)

Myers, Kathleen A, and Powell, Amanda, (1999), A Wild Country out in the Garden: The Spiritual Journals of a Colonial Mexican Nun


Book: Vida de la Venerable Madre María de San José


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