The Mysterious Sofía


The Mysterious Sofía

One Woman's Mission to Save Catholicism in Twentieth-Century Mexico

Stephen J. C. Andes

The Mexican Experience Series

450 pages
27 photographs, 2 illustrations, index


December 2019


$65.00 Add to Cart

December 2019


$35.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2019


$35.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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December 2019


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About the Book

Who was the “Mysterious Sofía,” whose letter in November 1934 was sent from Washington DC to Mexico City and intercepted by the Mexican Secret Service? In The Mysterious Sofía Stephen J. C. Andes uses the remarkable story of Sofía del Valle to tell the history of Catholicism’s global shift from north to south and the importance of women to Catholic survival and change over the course of the twentieth century. As a devout Catholic single woman, neither nun nor mother, del Valle resisted religious persecution in an era of Mexican revolutionary upheaval, became a labor activist in a time of class conflict, founded an educational movement, toured the United States as a public lecturer, and raised money for Catholic ministries—all in an age dominated by economic depression, gender prejudice, and racial discrimination. The rise of the Global South marked a new power dynamic within the Church as Latin America moved from the margins of activism to the vanguard. 

Del Valle’s life and the stories of those she met along the way illustrate the shared pious practices, gender norms, and organizational networks that linked activists across national borders. Told through the eyes of a little-known laywoman from Mexico, Andes shows how women journeyed from the pews into the heart of the modern world.

Author Bio

Stephen J. C. Andes is an associate professor of history at Louisiana State University. He is the author of The Vatican and Catholic Activism in Mexico and Chile: The Politics of Transnational Catholicism, 1920–1940.


"Stephen J. C. Andes’ The Mysterious Sofía is a solid contribution to the growing body of literature on the lives of elite and conservative women in Latin America. Its function as an exploration of wealthy Catholic views establishes it as an important work, but the form in which Andes packages this knowledge is just as important."—Jason Dormady, Latin Americanist

“With a sensitive, creative, and highly readable style, Andes narrates the life of Sofía del Valle, a complex, dynamic, and fascinating Mexican Catholic activist and lay leader. Yet Andes has done more than write a biography: he has also vividly portrayed the transnational world in which Sofía lived—a world in which lay activists and clergy circulated between Mexico, Europe, the Vatican, and the United States, exchanging ideas and plans, founding vibrant new organizations and publications, and working to engage Catholics in new ways with their Church. . . . Andes has brilliantly narrated an essentially Mexican story, one that explains and investigates the long and often contentious interplay between Church, state, and society in twentieth-century Mexico.”—Julia G. Young, author of Mexican Exodus: Emigrants, Exiles, and Refugees of the Cristero War

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


Nota Bene, Dear Reader

Prologue: De te fabula narratur

Part 1. The Mysterious Sofía

1. Days of the Dead

2. The Sophie Letters

3. Miss del Valle

4. The Mastermind

Interlude: Tere Huidobro

Part 2. A Family Romance

5. Little Flowers

6. Sofía’s Belle Époque

7. Vocation

8. Respectable Telephone Operator

9. Preparing the Future

Interlude: Family Albums

Part 3. Mexican Odyssey

10. The Catacombs

11. The Voyage

12. The Test

13. Gasparri’s Parrots

14. A Long, Hot Roman Summer

15. The Return

16. The Peace

Interlude: Las viejitas

Part 4. A Woman Alone

17. Out of the Shadows

18. The New Woman

19. Resistance

20. Les femmes internationales

21. Terrible Beasts

22. Winter in the City of Light

23. Doubt

24. Lourdes

25. The Road to Warsaw

26. Borders

27. Bridges

Interlude: Walls

Part 5. Catholic Vagabond

28. Miss del Valle Goes to Washington

29. The Plan

30. The Deception of Miss Duffy

31. Consider the Lobster

32. Golden Hour of the Little Flower

33. On the Road

34. La patria Calls

Postlude: Day’s End

Matins: A Few Days After





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