Darkness and Light (Mexico, 1912)- Teresa Farías de Isassi

Factory workers Mexico 1910.JPG

Photo Credit: Cigarette Factory, El Buen Tono, 1903. Library of Congress.

Darkness and Light (Sombra y Luz, 1912) by Teresa Farías de Isassi, translated by May Summer Farnsworth, Camila Garcia, and Erin Griffis. 

Original Spanish: Farías de Isassi. Sombra y luz. Mexico, D.F.: Imprenta y Litografía “El escritorio” Eduardo Garduño, 1912.

Click this link for the original Spanish: Sombra y luz (Digitizing sponsor: U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign).


Gilberta, a poor female factory worker living in Mexico City, must navigate the extremely limited opportunities she encounters. She finds dignity through labor, education, and revolutionary ideals but she lives in fear that her secret past sexual transgression will be discovered.


Farias de Isassi, Teresa. Sombra y luz. Mexico, 1912.


GIBLERTA: Maybe. I only know that today, when I left the factory, I left with Don Carlos, and I don’t exactly understand how it happened. I don’t know why I decided to, but instead of coming home, I went with him to a hotel.

LUCÍA: Enough! (Covering her face in her hands. Pause).

GILBERTA: (With a slow and painful voice). When I left, he handed me a banknote. I opened my hand and dropped the bill. No, I couldn’t take that paper. I felt likeI was burning up. It was like he wanted to pay me for something that was priceless, something that could not be bought with money.

LUCÍA: What are you going to do now? What are you thinking?

GILBERTA: I don’t know. An infinite number of dark things are crying at the bottom of my being. I feel like a hopeless rebel against my destiny.

LUCÍA: Child! (In a panic).

GILBERTA: I'm frustrated with everything. I no longer want this life of misery and struggle. I no longer want to play this role of a beast of burden, always working and submissive. I want my share of happiness. I want to laugh like others, spread love, enjoy life (heated).

LUCÍA: Gilberta! You scare me.

GILBERTA: Why should I sacrifice myself when there are others, no better than me, who don’t have to? I spend hours working hard to make the same money they throw away so carelessly.

Translators' Note:

As we translated Sombra y Luz, we were mindfull of the high value placed on sexual purity for women in turn-of-the-century Mexico. We did our best to use historically-accurate language and to capture the intense emotions in the dialogue, even if they sound antiquated today.

May, Camila, Erin.jpg

May Summer Farnsworth, Camila García, and Erin Griffis, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 2023.

Darkness and Light, PDF:

Darkness and Light.pdf


May Farnsworth, Camila García, and Erin Griffis, translators, “Darkness and Light (Sombra y Luz, 1912) by Teresa Farias de Isassi,” galeriahispana.omeka.net, Feminist Revivals Spanish and Hispanic Studies Digital Gallery at HWS, 2022.
Darkness and Light (Mexico, 1912)- Teresa Farías de Isassi