Enrique Favez

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Enrique Favez
Enriqueta Favez.png
Enrique Favez
Born c. 1791
Lausanne, Switzerland
Died 1856
New Orleans
Education Sorbonne
Occupation Physician
Spouse(s) A French soldier (name unknown)
Juana de Léon
Children One daughter (name unknown), died in infancy

Enrique Favez (born Enriqueta Favez) (c. 1791 – 1856) was a Swiss physician who practiced medicine in the Napoleonic Wars and in Cuba. Although female assigned at birth, Favez self-identified and lived as a man.


Enriqueta Favez was born into a bourgeois family in Lausanne, Switzerland, in around 1791. He married a French soldier at the age of 15 (c. 1806). Three years later, both his husband and his infant daughter died.

Favez remained in Paris and took up the study of medicine at the Sorbonne, taking on the dress and identity of a male army officer with his deceased husband's rank. After Favez's graduation, he worked as a French army surgeon during the Napoleonic Wars, until he was captured by Wellington's forces in Spain.

After the war, Favez left for Cuba to start a new life under the name of Enrique Favez. He started a practice of medicine in Baracoa, a pirate-plagued city in eastern Cuba. His clients included many of the local poor, whom he also taught to read and write.

Eventually, Favez married a poor local woman, Juana de Léon, who was aware of her husband's sexual anatomy. Some time after that, suspicions about his sex were aroused. Favez was arrested and put on trial, where examinations revealed his sexual anatomy. Favez was possibly one of the earliest documented transsexuals; in his defense, he claimed to have the spirit of a man caught in a woman’s body.

Favez was convicted to a prison sentence in a Havana prison. At the age of 33, he was released to live with relatives in New Orleans, US, who promptly removed him to a nunnery to protect the family name.

As Sister Magdalena, he continued to provide medical aid to the poor, and later became a missionary in Mexico. He died in New Orleans at the age of 65.


Favez's story is documented in several books, including most recently "For Dressing Like a Man" by Cuban historian Julio Cesar Gonzáles Pagés, whose publication was supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The present article is based on news digests of that book.

The life of Favez is also the subject of a 2005 documentary film by director Lídice Pérez (see Favez at the Internet Movie Database) and a theatre play by the group Rita Montaner.