Thousands of miles may separate the Village of Roslyn Harbor from Chile, but on Saturday people gathered to celebrate the achievements of the late pioneering poet and diplomat Gabriela Mistral, who lived in both locales.
More than 50 people attended a ceremony outside a private Motts Cove Road residence -- where Mistral lived from 1953 until her death in 1957 -- to reveal a plaque dedicated to Mistral, commemorating the 70th anniversary of her Nobel Prize in literature win. She was the first Latin American to receive the award.
"To us, she was like a visionary. Seventy years ago she foresaw what the world would be and the key is she advanced all the rights of women and children," Julio Fiol, consul general of Chile in New York, said in an interview after the ceremony. "That's why we honor her."
Born as Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga in 1889 in Vicuña, Chile, she was forced to give up a formal education to support her single mother and sister as a teenager. Mistral went on to work as a teacher, championed the rights of the disenfranchised and was appointed by the Chilean government as a consul for life.
Shabbir and Ruby Adib, owners of the home where Mistral's plaque was showcased, said they didn't know Mistral once lived there and were honored to be part of history.
"She's done so much. My children and I looked her up and read about her life," said Adib, 45. "She's inspiring."
State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and deputy mayor and Roslyn Harbor village historian Louis Badolato said it was important to keep Mistral's legacy alive.
Gloria Garafulich-Grabois, director of the Gabriela Mistral Foundation, also presented a plaque to Bryant Library and donated the first bilingual edition of Mistral's book, "Desolación," published in 1922.
"It is our hope that the residents of this beautiful village . . . will get to know her and her work," she said.
Marie-Lise Gazarian Gautier, director of the Spanish graduate program at St. John's University, who knew Mistral, said although Mistral was accomplished, she was also humble and giving.
"When she spoke, it was like magic," she said. "She would be very moved to see this . . . to be remembered."