Catalina de Erauso
Catalina de Erauso or Katalina Erauso, also known in Spanish as La Monja Alférez (English, The Nun Lieutenant) (1592, San Sebastián, Spain—1650, Cuetlaxtla (near Orizaba), New Spain), was a semi-legendary personality of the Basque Country, Spain and Spanish America in the first half of the 17th century.
Catalina de Erauso was daughter and sister of soldiers from the city of San Sebastián in Spain. Her father was Miguel de Erauso and her mother María Pérez de Gallárraga y Arce. She was expected to become a nun but abandoned the nunnery after a beating at the age of fifteen, just before she was to take her vows. She had not ever seen a street, having entered the convent at the age of four .
Catalina dressed as a man, calling herself "Francisco de Loyola", and left on a long journey from San Sebastian to Valladolid. From there she visited Bilbao, where she signed up on a ship with the assistance of other Basques. She reached Spanish America and enlisted as a soldier in Chile under the name Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán. She served under several captains in the Arauco War, including her own brother, who never recognized her.
After one fight in which Catalina killed a man and was wounded seriously, she revealed her sex as female in a deathbed confession. She however survived after four months of convalescence and left for Guamanga.
To escape yet another incident, she confessed her sex to the bishop, Fray Agustín de Carvajal. Induced by Fray she entered a convent and her story spread across the ocean. In 1620, the archbishop of Lima called her. In 1624, she arrived in Spain, having changed ship after another fight.
Catalina died in Cuetlaxtla, New Spain in 1650.
Pietro Della Valle described her in a 1626 letter sent from Rome to Mario Schipano as fond of conversation, tall and strong with masculine looks and childlike breasts after the application of an Italian remedy. Her face is not ugly but worn by age, looking more like a eunuch than a woman.
She dressed as a Spanish man, with a sword, more as a soldier than a courtier.
In 1625, Juan Pérez de Montalván's play Comedia famosa de la monja Alférez appeared, profiting from her fame. In that same year, a "True narration of the great feats..." was published in Seville, followed by a "Second narration..." and a "Last and third narration..." from Mexico.
An alleged autobiography from 1626 exists, the earliest manuscript of which dates from 1794 and which was first published in 1829.
Her life was also the theme of various novels and of a study by Dr. Nicolás León.
- Erauso, Catalina de (1996), Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World, Boston: Beacon, ISBN 0-8070-7072-6. Trans. Michele Stepto and Gabriel Stepto.
- Stepto, Michele (1996), "Introduction", in Erauso, Catalina de, Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World, Boston: Beacon, pp. xxv–xliv, ISBN 0-8070-7072-6. Trans. Michele Stepto and Gabriel Stepto.
- (Spanish) "Alférez, La Monja," Enciclopedia de México, v. 1. Mexico City, 1988.
- (Spanish) Erauso y Pérez de Galarraga, Catalina de at the Auñamendi Encyclopedia.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1900 Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography article about Catalina de Erauso.|
- Short biography, with a bibliography[dead link]
- (Spanish) Her autobiography scanned (1838)
- (Spanish) Her autobiography transcribed
- Petition of Catalina de Erauso to the Spanish Crown, 1625
- Catalina de Erauso article at WOA-TV
- Link to the movie at IMDb