Part I (of 3) - Introduction
Doña Catalina de Erauso, better known to history as La Monja Alférez (The Nun Ensign), was an un-likely heroine of Spain's Golden Age who left a confusing blend of historical and legendary footprints in the Peninsula as well as in Spain's American colonies. The nature of her character and of her alleged exploits caused no small amount of consternation and embarrassment to officials of Church and state at the time of her career. But doña Catalina's story represents perhaps the only truly successful real-life rebellion by a woman against the male-dominated social system of Counter-Reformation Spain for, in the end, doña Catalina had her way, single-handedly defeating the policy of a powerful global empire to subjugate her because of her gender.
The first documented edition of Erauso's purported autobiography still extant was printed in Spanish in 1829, the work of Joaquín María de Ferrer. Ferrer had copied his manuscript from another which had been copied from the original in the Archive of the Indies in 1784 by Juan Bautista Muñoz.(1) Not surprisingly, the authenticity of the autobiography has been unable to completely emerge from the shadow of doubt, remaining in the nether world of quasi-fiction and historical apocrypha as far as modern academic study is concerned.(2)
The work did not appear in English until 1908 when Sir James Fitzmaurice-Kelly published a faithful translation of Ferrer's. Both historians included many footnotes and corroborating documentation which prove beyond a doubt that Erauso really did exist and that many--if not all--of the more bizarre aspects of her story are true.(3)
That Erauso was a transvestite is a well established historical fact. It is also true that she served in Spanish military forces in Chile and Peru.(4) Her purported skill at sword fighting and inclination towards violence perfectly suited the milieu of the events, which was the latter days of the conquest of Spanish America. In her successful petition to Philip IV she admits to a "...particular inclination to take up arms in defense of the Catholic faith and be of service to Your Majesty...".(5) That she was an overt homosexual who made love to women was something that apparently escaped most of her male contemporaries, although a careful reading of her autobiography and related chronicles seems to suggest that very thing.
Erauso became a legend in her own time with at least two editions of her story published shortly after her return from the Americas to Spain in 1624 as well as a popular play.(6) Within three years of her death in Mexico in 1650 a version of her exploits was printed there that historian Lesley Bird Simpson termed the first novel ever published on the American Continent.(7)
As to the authenticity of Erauso's authorship of any of these accounts, there is no real proof of it. Certainly she may well have participated in their preparation as early editions made much of the phrases "escrita por ella misma" or "dicho por su mesma voca".(8)
The first-person narrative in Ferrer's book consists of a series of exciting picaresque episodes--some obviously pure fantasy and bordering on the spectacular. These episodes seem to have been based on the ones that originally appeared in the first Relaciones with the addition of more entertaining details. But the narrative, apart from its obviously fictitious sections and often faulty historical accuracy as regards dates (some of which could be attributable to typographical errors) corresponds to many of the details and circumstances of Erauso's petitions to the Crown.(9) Furthermore, the work's writing style, if not its content, is distinctly prosaic and as such does not suggest the talents of a professional ghostwriter or forger. Finally, in spite of this dearth of literary style and the possibility of generous editorial assistance, a personal touch is perceptible throughout. Therefore, after a careful examination of this literary and historical evidence it seems reasonable to allow that many of the passages in the work translated here are, at the very least, inspired by Erauso's own exploits and adventures.(10)
1. The Cultural Ascendance of the Spanish Church
Doña Catalina de Erauso has been portrayed as everything from a valiant soldier and a devout nun to a charlatan, an imposter, and even a hoax. But what kind of a person was doña Catalina really? Given the ambiguous nature of the literary and historical references that exist, as well as that of the subjects of gender and sexuality (so central to the enduring fascination with Erauso) we may never know for certain. Furthermore, it is not the purpose of this translation to settle the matter unequivocally, but rather to allow readers of English more direct access to primary sources aided by prefatory material and numerous annotations. However, in formulating even a hypothetical answer to this question, it will be helpful to consider the complex social and religious environment that engendered her.
In the Spain of the early and especially later Middle Ages Christians were preoccupied primarily with winning the battle for control of the Iberian peninsula in military terms. Their chief opponents in this struggle were the forces of Islam. This period, known as the reconquista, lasted almost seven hundred years. During the reconquista period, strict adherents to established Christian religious practices belonged for the most part to an economic and social elite consisting of the clergy, the nobility, and the Christian segment of the growing artisan/bourgeois class in the towns. The masses, on the other hand, while considering themselves nominally Christian, remained illiterate and untrained in the precepts and values of Christianity and widely embraced superstition and magic.(11) In addition, their moral values and behavior were quite far removed from what Church doctrine prescribed.(12)
This situation existed without too much concern from the clergy until near the end of the fifteenth century. In 1480, by which time the military defeat of Muslim power in Spain was a virtual certainty, the synod of Alcalá issued the first marching orders in a sweeping catechization campaign soon to be directed towards the Spanish masses and at children in particular.(13) In 1497 the synod of bishop Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros confirmed this policy and introduced the stipulation of mandatory attendance at Sunday mass. The synod of 1536 headed by Cardinal Tavera added more detail to the instruction of children and restricted marriage to those couples who were able to recite the four basic prayers: the Pater, Ave, Credo, and Salve. Dedieu writes
Such a requirement at a key moment in life was significant: the synodal decisions were no longer abstract, but were to be carried out. This was the spirit of Trent avant la lettre.(14)
The issue of catechism was pursued vigorously at the Council of Trent by Spanish delegates.(15) The clergy of the Spanish Church had pioneered this policy and believed in its value for consolidating its popular influence. Through catechism, the elite groups mentioned previously in conjunction with the earlier historical period were able to exert greater control over the less educated masses. This control was strengthened by the strictures already mentioned (e.g., on marrying couples) as well as by later ones that actually required yearly examinations of parishioners. With time, a great degree of religiosity and obedience to authority was inculcated in the peasants of Spain through the aggressive catechist policies the Spanish Church initiated in 1480.
Another arm that was used to enforce the expanding political and cultural authority of the Spanish Church was the Inquisition. Established the same year as the synod of Alcalá began the institutionalization of catechism(16), the Inquisition was primarily concerned with the matter of heresy. However, the Inquisition's area of jurisdiction was soon increased to include other crimes, such as witchcraft and sexual deviance.(17) This had a profound effect on the relationship of the Holy Office and women.
2. The Origins of Spanish Misogyny
Misogyny, rooted deep in human consciousness, is by no means the exclusive province of Christianity. The process of the devaluation of the Feminine is evident in many cultures--including the early Jewish. The social trends which promoted misogyny then were driven by the fear of a dangerous enemy (the "Canaanites" of the Bible) who revered natural life--and the feminine principle--through the exaltation and ritualization of sensual experience. The religious reaction of Jewish patriarchs (and the Christian ones who evolved philosophically from them) to this was the devaluation of natural life, of everyday existence, and of the physical body, in favour of the spirit. The focus of religion shifted to the concept of the immortality of the soul and the means to its salvation (the soul having been the main casualty in the allegedly woman-precipitated Fall from Grace). As the gods of one religious phase were transformed into the devils of the next, the Feminine, as an expression of what Whitmont calls "the inwardness of being in the world"(18), was rejected. A new order of patriarchy was eventually established which replaced the old matriarchal images of the Goddess--virgin, mother, whore--with the concept of the unitary Father deity. This was accompanied by an attitude that promoted the subjugation of physical nature by the concentrated energy of spiritual consciousness.
Misogynistic themes occur throughout all periods of European literature and can be traced back to the ancients myths of the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans. One of the earliest examples of misogynistic literature is found in the writings of the Greek, Hesiod. In Hesiod's tale Pandora is cast as the femme fatale of Man's Fall from Grace. Pandora was originally the Great Goddess, giver of all things, ruler of gods and men alike. But with the advent of patriarchy came a male-dominated pantheon, and her story was changed to reflect the new psycho-social reality.(19) Hesiod tells how Prometheus stole fire and gave it to men, against the will of Zeus, who planned revenge by creating something so attractive to men that they could not resist--combining in it the seeds of their own moral destruction. Pandora, re-invented and demoted from her former status, is given to Epimetheus who accepts her along with her box of wedding gifts from the other gods. In her first fatal act of wifely disobedience Pandora opens the box and all the evils of the world are released to plague Man forever.
About three hundred years later a version of creation was written with a scenario remarkably similar to Hesiod's tale. This is found in the Biblical book of Genesis where God, almost as an afterthought, creates Eve from Adam's rib. The implication of this anatomical hierarchy seems to be that Woman does not exist in her own right but only as an accessory to Man--an acceptable solution to a problem in the absence of any better one.(20)
The mythical episodes of Pandora and Eve, treating of Man's introduction to Woman and his subsequent Fall from Grace, support the ideological principle of Woman's inherent weakness, deviousness, and propensity for evil. Pandora is warned not to open the box. But, because she has been deliberately created with a deceitful nature, she cannot resist doing so and irrevocable disaster results. Eve listens to the advice of a serpent and convinces her innocent husband to do the same. Adam trusts her, follows her advice, and ends up losing almost everything. If only these men had maintained firmer control over their women, the stories imply, the mother of all catastrophes would have been averted.
It is significant that the Biblical story of the Fall needed no special interpretation to be understood as misogynistic. Its intended moral is obvious all: Woman is intrinsically evil and therefore dangerous. Almost all subsequent Christian misogynistic tracts may be seen as derived from the idea that Eve's sin was an expression of Woman's nature and is passed as a hereditary trait to all her daughters. This story more than any other was used by the catechists of Medieval and Counter-Reformation Spain to drive home the point to their flocks: Woman is dangerous in the extreme and must be strictly controlled.(21)
The catechists had many other sources to bolster the arguments given in their sermons during the now obligatory Sunday masses. Many Biblical stories were interpreted in the manner of Hesiod by later commentators to increase their misogynistic value and Spanish preachers relied on them heavily.(22)
This effort by the Church was partly a reaction to the glorification of womanhood that had been the favorite theme of the courtly love poets and medieval troubadours. Later, Renaissance humanists such as Dutch monk Desiderius Erasmus, Spanish ex-patriate scholar Juan Luis Vives, and martyred civil servant Sir Thomas More wrote treatises rejecting the idea of keeping women in ignorance in favour of elevating them to a more dignified status through education. Erasmus was a most influential writer of this movement--especially in Spain--where his works enjoyed great popularity from 1527 until 1535, encouraged by Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Spain's Catholic Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, and later the first wife of Henry VIII of England.(23)
In spite of early acceptance and success in Spain, the Spanish Church succeeded in repressing Erasmian literature and thinking by linking it to the growing menace of Protestantism. As a result, many Erasmians who had tried to combine careers as high ranking clerics with liberal humanism in Spain fell victim to the Inquisition. Many were tortured and burned along with their books.(24)
3. The Institutions of Enclosure for Women in Counter-Reformation Spain
Control of culture in all its aspects became the cornerstone of public policy in Counter-Reformation Spain. This policy extended to all conceivable limits of culture but by far the most important was the area of religion, where complete integration of the populace into one indivisible church was the un-equivocal goal. Among the marginalized groups that were targeted by this policy (moriscos, conversos, apostates, the un-lettered, etc.,) none were of greater concern than women. Deemed morally weak by the misogynistic thinking that pervaded the Church, women were viewed as the greatest threat to Christian morality.(25) Further compounding the problem was the fact that women, unlike the other groups, crossed all lines of social class and ethnicity, were to be found everywhere, and could not be easily separated from the main body of loyal adherents to Church dogma.
The Franciscan monk Juan de la Cerda, in a book published in 1599, exhorted parents to guard their daughters "like dragons", reflecting a widespread belief in Counter-Reformation Spanish society that virginity and chastity were the most important values in women. That virginity was to be protected at all costs indicates the deep concern about limiting the presence of un-chaste women in society as these were seen as a profound threat to the salvation of men's souls.(26) The fact that a number of institutions had to concern themselves with containing and controlling a considerable a population of un-chaste women demonstrates the failure of de la Cerda's warning. But institutions of enclosure for women in Counter-Reformation Spain included the chaste as well as the un-chaste if we consider the convent and marriage along with the brothel, the Magdalen House, and the prison, for all represent examples of societal control of female sexuality.
For women who ended up in the enclosure of marriage--and an enclosure it was--domestic security came at a high price. For example, the Siete Partidas of King Alfonso X (known as Alfonso the Wise) unequivocally transferred control of whatever wealth may have accrued from a bride's wedding dowries to her husband.(27) Married women were restricted from taking almost any kind of legal action without permission. Mckendrick writes
She could accept, but not reject, any inheritance ex testamento and ab intestado without the permission of her husband; she could not enter or break a contract; she could not go to court either to prosecute or to defend.(28)
In Medieval times it is arguable that women who were unhappily married may have had greater recourse to relieve their frustration by consummating affairs with lovers who offered them diversion, and even leaving their husbands and marrying again without benefit of divorce. The husbands of such women were liable to be involved in such extra-marital shenanigans themselves (a pattern of behavior reflected in the courtly love tradition--the reality of which was more often carnal than platonic) and more likely to forgive an erring wife. Furthermore, then as now, there were many other reasons why marriages might fail. When they did, the attitudes of spouses who had not been heavily indoctrinated towards intolerance were naturally more pragmatic. Poska writes
When late medieval marriages failed, parishioners often took matters into their own hands. Some couples agreed to split up. Others simply abandoned their unhappy lives and moved to other places, where they created new personae and new families. Sympathetic to the plight of unhappily married couples, communities were often complicit in hiding bigamous relationships.(29)
But, Poska continues
As the sacrament of marriage came under increased attack from Protestant reformers [ ] the Council of Trent formulated more restrictive regulations concerning marriage which, among other things, facilitated the location and prosecution of those persons whose actions desecrated the sacrament(30)
The options of women in the married state were severely curtailed by the expanding power of the Tridentine Church. Ecclesiastical authorities had become extremely concerned with protecting the sanctity of marriage and did not shy away from opportunities to make an example of the wages of mortal sin--especially when it came to female adulterers.
In the society of Counter Reformation Spain, ballads like la bella malmaridada, originally popular and folkloric, were absorbed into cultured forms, namely drama. This may well have been because, as the freedom of women became more restricted under the pressure of the Church, their situation became ever more dramatic and therefore grist for the mill of playwrights . "The whole debate about woman's position [in Spanish society] was, after all, full of titillating dramatic possibilities...".(31) Now, not only might they have to face an angry husband but also an ecclesiastical court of the Holy Office where the prescribed punishment for adultery was severe.(32)
While women's literary expressions were effectively silenced in this milieu there were some notably sympathetic male voices speaking for the female, such as Marcela's soliloquy in Cervantes' Don Quijote and Lope de Vega's La vengadora de las mujeres. These, along with such dissident clerics as Fray Luis de Leon(33) were among the few voices of feminism at the time. But for the rest, marriage, as defined and enforced by the Tridentine Church, became a virtual prison for an unhappy wife, one from which any attempted escape--even a temporary one--could bring ignominious punishment including imprisonment, flogging, or even death.
Another form of enclosure for women was the convent. In the convent, women
might at least find freedom from marriage and childbirth. There, many women lived in a
complex inner world of feminine spirituality--prayer, sanctity, and good works--away
from the distractions of men and sex. In addition, certain forms of self-empowerment
were available to nuns as to no one else, namely the opportunity to perform deeds of
saintly behavior and acts of asceticism which could enhance their own status and that of
their communities. But in response to a reputation for laxity that had existed since
medieval times, the Council of Trent made a point of tightening the regulations pertaining
to the cloistering of nuns. They did this for the same reasons that they had increased the
strictures on marriage: to reduce the opportunities for sexual contact outside of the
This reputation for laxity was engendered partly by the tradition of devotos, men who appeared to be enthralled by the saintliness of certain nuns and sought opportunities to spend time with them. The true motives of some of these relationships were suspected by some clerical authorities to be more physical than spiritual and this may well have influenced Tridentine delegates. Perry writes:
seduction persisted in the convents of Counter-Reformation Spain despite official attempts to enforce cloistering [ ] and forbid visits of nuns by devotos, those men who wooed them in a courtship of sexual tension heightened by presumptions of purity and piety. (34)
Some females were committed to the cloister as children by parents eager to be rid of the responsibility to care for and protect them.(35) As for the adult women who entered convents (such as widows and spinsters), not all professed or even intended to, maintaining the status of resident lay sisters. Their status was profoundly different than that of a professed nun who could not renounce her vows, once taken.(36)
The antithesis of the convent was the brothel. Tolerated as a necessary evil in Counter-Reformation Spain as it had been in medieval times, the brothel was reconciled with the goal of protecting the chastity of women in society by the theory that men, especially younger men, by having access to that incorrigible class of women who chose to sell themselves, would be less likely to attempt to seduce those socially more valued women whose chastity was protected by their families and would later on qualify to become suitable wives. As well, the theory went on, the brothel diverted men from the even more egregious sexual sins of adultery, incest, homosexuality, and rape.(37)
This policy of allowing prostitution to exist entailed a responsibility on the part of Church and civil authorities to integrate it into the socio-religious order. This daunting task was attempted through laws regulating the activities of prostitutes. These laws were proclaimed and administered by local authorities at the behest of the royal government but most often served to regulate the activities of prostitutes in such a way as to assure that their activities were profitable to brothel administrators. Thus private and independent brothels were suppressed while an effort was made to incorporate the business under the auspices of public brothels, the administrators of which were often favored individuals like Alonso Yáñez Fajardo who was granted a license to operate the brothel of Málaga by the Catholic Kings in gratitude for his services in certain campaigns of the reconquista.(38)
Proponents of legalized prostitution argued that the brothel system protected women from the evil exploitation that usually results from association with pimps. This paternalistic assumption served several social functions. It reinforced the position of clerics and civil authority figures in their claim that they were acting with compassion towards these women. As well, subjecting prostitutes to official regulation and control neutralized the danger that such women posed to society in the sense that it portrayed them as weak and vulnerable rather than sexual deviants threatening to the social order. At the same time this notion of vulnerability provided an explanation of why women become prostitutes that was compatible with the philosophy of the Church. Prostitutes who lived within the regulations (which also required them to leave off work and attend church on Sundays) could theoretically count on protection. Those who stubbornly clung to the freelance tradition, however, were considered fair game for the law or for whatever violence might befall them.(39)
Magdalen Houses, another form of enclosure for women, were established as halfway houses to help women who wanted to quit the life of the whore. Some of these began as convents in which women might become novices and eventually enter a religious order. Others were organized along less stringent lines so as not to discourage women who might have the will to reform but lack the extraordinary self-discipline required to become a full-fledged religious. Nevertheless, life within the Magdalen House could be severe consisting of a regimen of prayer and work that was designed to purge the inmates of their sinfulness. In addition to reforming prostitutes, Magdalen Houses also provided shelter for women who were destitute and lacked the dowry necessary for marriage or convent. Yet other inmates were placed in Magdalen Houses for correction by husbands or fathers.(40)
For those loose, un-chaste women who still remained beyond the reach of these institutions, Philip III called on Madre Magdalena de Gerónimo in 1608 to draw upon her many years in the business of converting prostitutes to direct a women's prison.(41) Madre Magdalena prescribed severe discipline for those women who would not willingly become penitent Magdalens:
The inmates would have their heads shaven and wear only burlap or rough clothing: they would be forbidden to speak together or to have visitors from outside. The five people in charge of the inmates were to guard them vigorously with courage and "a hundred eyes." Inmates who talked would be gagged, and those who tried to run away were to be chained and pilloried. To ensure that this discipline would bring about their conversion to better ways, she recommended that they be held for one or two years and that they be branded when they left the prison so that they could be identified if they should be returned to prison. "This prison will be a warning," wrote the nun, "for many lost women to collect themselves and live well, through the fear and horror of this punishment and pain"(42)
In spite of these measures to enclose un-chaste women and provide charitable support for those who wished to reform, many so-called Jezebels and Magdalens slipped through the cracks of the system and continued to circulate among the general population. The economic decline in Spain, in full swing by the seventeenth-century, most directly affected women, especially abandoned wives, destitute widows, daughters, and single mothers. Many of those among them who chose to sell their bodies probably did so out of dire necessity.(43)
Legalized prostitution in Spain continued until 1623 when Phillip IV decreed an end to brothels throughout his kingdom, thereby pushing the problem back out onto the streets.(44)
4. The Tradition of Transvestism in Medieval and Renaissance Europe
In the Medieval and Renaissance period there were a number of occasions and circumstances when it was acceptable and even customary for women to dress as men for their personal safety. These included journeys (often undertaken for the purpose of flight), hunting, riots, and concealment from invading troops. In these cases, female transvestism was simply the exercise of a viable option for women who were bent on survival in difficult times.
The most common circumstance that might require such an option was traveling, a dangerous occupation in the best of times, even for men. For women, especially those who might venture to travel alone, it was extremely so. In addition to presenting the figure of a man rather than a vulnerable woman while enroute, male clothing was much more practical for the purpose than long skirts.
Another occasion that allowed female cross-dressing was the carnival and other such festivities. 'El mundo al revés'(45) was a powerful image in Counter-Reformation Spain and while the carnival created the opportunity for cross-dressing of the most temporary and frivolous sort, it may well have given some women an opportunity to experience the psycho-erotic power inherent in the practice of transvestism. Having tasted this heady brew, combined with the access to male power and privilege that dressing in male attire could provide, the idea of cross-dressing on a more regular basis may well have taken root in any number of female minds.(46)
The reasons why women might dress as men varied according to social class and position. These ranged from a desperate need to flee from abusive situations and unwanted marriages, practicing criminal activities or carrying on illicit love affairs, to participating in the sport of hunting. Obviously poor women did not concern themselves with hunting for sport any more than women of higher social status pursued careers as highway robbers or muggers. But, some women to whom the advantages and rewards of dressing as men were obvious, deliberately set out to do so. These were sometimes common criminals escaping from the law or simply disguising their identity in order to commit criminal acts with greater freedom. Many of this class make up the historical annals of female transvestites through the existence of court records.(47)
5. Female Transvestites on the Spanish Stage
The dramatic stage was a common venue for the representation of female transvestites and such characters abounded in the theatre of Golden-Age Spain more than any other. In fact, the mujer varonil was a perennial favorite of the Spanish theatre throughout most of its heyday. Plays featuring this kind of character include El esclavo del demonio (Mira de Amescua, 1612), Los hijos de la barbuda (Luis Vélez de Guevara, 1612), La condesa bandolera o la ninfa del cielo (Tirso de Molina, 1613), and La belígera española (Ricardo de Turia, 1616), to name only a few. But the greatest creator of this often transvestite character was Lope de Vega, who presented various versions of the mujer varonil (not all of them cross-dressers) in more than fifty separate plays.(48) This singular accomplishment may well have been a reflection of the playwright's greatest interest: Lope loved women.(49) In these dramatic compositions Lope expressed strong opinions on woman's role in society and many of his works comprise a serious and sympathetic examination of the subject. His "bandolera" character, who appears in a number of his plays, is perhaps the most daring example of a full-blown female rebel against the male dominated society of the time. But, as riveting a character as she may have been, the mujer varonil of the stage was a far cry from the real-life male impersonator Catalina de Erauso. The former were invariably products of the male imagination and male prejudices, however talented, liberal, and sympathetic the writer. By the end of the play these characters were usually transformed to a degree of domesticity that satisfied the moral and ideological requirements of the male-dominated society--a state to which the historical doña Catalina de Erauso was never reduced.(50)
6. Transvestism and Sexuality in the Case of Catalina de Erauso
In the present era the very mention of transvestism inevitably provokes questions of sexuality. The connection was not taken for granted in the past--at least as far as women were concerned--for we have seen that the tradition of female cross-dressing comprised a number of different aspects apart from purely sexual ones. Still, it is known that female cross-dressing was undertaken for the purpose of sexual arousal by prostitutes.(51) As well, the great popularity of the female male-impersonator character on the Spanish stage appealed strongly to prurient male interests. "Nowhere but in the theatre could a man publicly enjoy the sight of a female leg clearly outlined from ankle to thigh."(52)
But these instances represented occasions for the sexual pleasure of men, not of women. The sexual motives women might have derived from cross-dressing are not so easily determined as very few references to homosexuality among women in Counter-Reformation Spain exist.(53) But Dekker postulates,
Nowadays, female homosexuality is not a self-evident reason for changing one's sex, because women who sexually prefer women to men do not usually reject their female identity. However, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries dressing and living as a man made it possible to legitimise a sexual relationship with another woman.(54)
Dekker goes on to argue that for lesbian women of the era, transvestism was a necessary psychological step that enabled female homosexual relationships. Based on this logic we may make many inferences in the works portraying the life of Catalina de Erauso and these assume an even greater degree of credibility when the central character is viewed in her historical totality.
7. Synopsis of the autobiography of Catalina de Erauso
The synopsis of Erauso's present autobiography is as follows: In the year 1600, in the Spanish Basque town of San Sebastián, the fifteen year old novice Catalina de Erauso dwells in a Dominican convent of nuns. She has been raised there since the age of four by her mother's sister, the prioress doña Ursula.
On the eve of taking her final vows, enraged by a beating from a professed nun, she seizes an opportunity to escape. Taking a scissors, needle, thread, and some coins, she bolts and hides herself in a nearby grove where she quickly transforms her habit into a the outfit of a typical young lad. Cutting off her hair, she sets off down the road to seek her fortune.
After some initial blunders which cause her to become more acquainted with the ways of the world, she secures employment with certain eminent men as a page. Within a few years she has developed a full-blown masculine persona and succumbs to the irresistible lure of the Indies. After one last incognito visit to her hometown, during which she is taken by almost everyone she meets for a gallant young man, she departs for the Indies as the cabin boy to the captain of a royal galleon.(55)
Arriving in Panama, she steals five hundred pesos from her master and jumps ship, heading off to the Pacific coast and Peru. There she secures employment managing a mercer's store in the town of Trujillo. All goes well until she becomes entangled in an intrigue involving her employer and his mistress. Subjected to a public humiliation, she purchases weapons and attacks her foe with bloody effect.
Obliged to slink away from Trujillo, she attempts to start again in Lima but soon is undone by a growing appetite for the company of young women. This time she escapes her troubles by enlisting with the forces being recruited to put down the Indian uprising in Chile. She marches off to Concepción where she finds herself in the company of Captain Miguel de Erauso, her beloved eldest brother.
Attached to the trusting captain Erauso as an aide (who is not aware of her true identity), she soon loses her comfortable posting through another indiscretion and is sent off to the front where she experiences the bitter reality of combat. Distinguishing herself in battle, she is commissioned a lieutenant. When the commander of her cavalry company is killed she is given a temporary captaincy. As the cruel campaign against the Araucano rebels continues, she incurs the wrath of her superiors when she brutally slays a charismatic Indian leader whom the governor wanted taken alive. Passed over for a permanent promotion, she is returned to Concepción and placed on half-pay.
Depressed and suffering from battle fatigue, she begins a pattern of compulsive gambling and brawling. When she seriously wounds an opponent in a disagreement, she seeks sanctuary in a Franciscan monastery to avoid military justice. One night a fellow officer comes in and asks her to act as his second in a duel at midnight. She sneaks out of the convent with her friend and they meet their adversaries in a very dark alley. When the duelists kill each other, she defends herself against the other man's second. As her sword pierces her opponent's chest, she recognizes by his dying cries the voice of her brother Miguel. She runs back to the convent and watches from the choir with anguish as her brother's body is laid out in the chapel.(56)
Insane with grief, she escapes from the convent and takes up with two other deserters heading back up the coast towards Peru. Turning inland, they ascend the escarpment and soon are lost in the barren Andean highlands. Her starving companions dead, she finally falls exhausted, ready to give up the ghost. Two mestizo ranch hands from the eastern slope discover her nearly lifeless form and take her to the house of their employer where she is cared for and restored. There the unmarried daughter of the family takes a liking to Catalina, who once again is wearing the bloom of health. The family, prosperous owners of land and herds, offers a handsome dowry for the marriage which Catalina accepts. But, when in the town of Tucumán, she manages to get her hands on the greater part of the money and absconds with it.
Wandering from town to town, she soon gambles away the money while earning a reputation as a con artist, a bad loser, and a dangerous outlaw. Arrested and charged with a capital crime in La Paz, she cleverly plays church against state and escapes the gallows.(57)
She travels on to Cuzco and before long crosses swords with a fellow rascal known as the "New Cid". A bloody street fight results in his death and her serious injury. At death's door, she receives the Last Rites and confesses her whole story to a priest. To everyone's surprise she recovers and is quietly taken into a monastery to avoid the law which by now pursues her diligently
Her secret out, she flees once again for Lima but is intercepted at the bridge of the Apurimac by a posse. After a bloody fight she gets away to Guamanga but is cornered again after being recognized by the posters which are now being circulated. Hopelessly surrounded, the Bishop of Guamanga intercedes and persuades her to surrender to him. She confesses all to the Bishop, even submitting to an examination by midwives who pronounce her indubitably female and a virgin to boot.(58)Catalina is placed in a convent in Lima until word comes from Spain that she was never a professed nun. Released back into the world, she discards her nun's habit once again and sets out for Spain. Disembarking in Cádiz in 1624, she finds herself hailed by crowds everywhere. She is immediately arrested by Church authorities, but then mysteriously released by order of the Count Duke of Olivares. After an aborted trip to Rome during which she is arrested in France for a Spanish spy, she returns to Spain and appears before Philip IV where she boldly presents the king with a petition outlining her military service and seeking compensation.(59) The king refers her to the Council of the Indies with the result that she receives an annual pension of 800 escudos.
She departs for Rome again, this time by sea. There, Pope Urban VIII indulges her and grants her dispensation to continue dressing as a man, ignoring the criticism his action provokes from scandalized conservatives.
Thus ends the autobiography of doña Catalina de Erauso.
Even without the fictional embellishments contained in her published memoirs, Erauso was clearly one of the few women of Counter-Reformation Spain (very possibly the only one) to effectively escape, in full public view, the enclosing and confining strictures imposed on women by the Church and Crown--and get away with it. The measure of her success is seen in her receipt of a pension for her military service after an interview with Phillip IV, and a dispensation to continue dressing as a man from Pope Urban VIII.(60) Furthermore, she became an extremely popular personality in her home country and abroad, the equivalent of a modern-day superstar. Her narrative is all the more amazing when taken as the daring and sincere confession of a sexual misfit acting in a rigidly controlled totalitarian society that was so shocked by her revelations that, in this one case, it seems to have transcended its own natural intolerance and vindictiveness and hailed an incorrigible rebel as a conquering hero.
But, given the previous evidence concerning the uncompromising attitude of the Church in Spain towards women and towards sexual deviation it seems highly unlikely that such an offender as Erauso should go unpunished. How did she manage to pull it off? The only explanation can be that female homosexuality was scarcely conceivable to the Spanish male mind. And while Erauso's probable nature may be patently obvious to twentieth-century readers,
It would be both foolish and arrogant automatically to ascribe our own sexual awareness to other societies as if such awareness were a universally static factor; this is particulary true in the case of female homosexuality which throughout the greater part of European society until the present day has been very much, through ignorance and sublimation, a subterranean phenomenon.(61)And in Dekker it is further reported that:
The number of cases of lesbian relationships we know of in Europe before the nineteenth century is very small indeed and most of these concerned couples where one of the women dressed as a man. From the negligence of the courts, the general silence of the sources, and the absence of adequate terminology, much can be inferred. Until the end of the eighteenth century love affairs between women were not taken seriously, and perhaps not even noticed at all.(62)and finally, Brown:
...Europeans had long found it difficult to accept that women could be attracted to other women. Their view of human sexuality was phallocentric...(63)
But in the case of Doña Catalina, Spanish society, aside from its ignorance of female homosexuality, actually reacted predictably and consistently as it did towards all women: by de-humanizing her from the status of a person to an intellectual construct--in this case to that of a mythical amazon-warrior. That she bore arms for God and king was enough to justify the praise and acclaim she received, from sovereign and pope on down. The possibility of her homosexuality was simply beyond comprehension.(64)
But Erauso's likely homosexuality is suggested through citations in her autobiography and other contemporary works about her. Some of these apparently escaped the notice of McKendrick who wrote that these, "...homosexual tendencies"[ ] are absent from the autobiography."(65)
The first such passage is found in the autobiography in chapter three. Erauso is entangled in a complex web of sexual intrigue where her employer seeks to marry her off to his mistress. After a vicious brawl Catalina has severely wounded a man and finds herself holed up in the sanctuary of a church under threat of civil and criminal proceedings. Her master offers a way out: that she marry doña Beatriz de Cárdenas, a relative of the injured man. But the narrator explains:
It is understood that this doña Beatriz de Cárdenas was my master's paramour and he was looking to have us both for keeps, me for business and her for pleasure. It seems that they had both agreed on this plan, for after I was restored to the church, I used to slip out by night to that lady's house. There she caressed me passionately and, feigning fear of the police, begged me not to return to the church but to stay there. One night she even locked me in and declared that in spite of the Devil I had to bed her. She held on to me so tightly that I had to pry her hands loose to get away.(66)It is obvious in this admission that Catalina frequently risked capture by leaving her place of refuge and that she enjoyed the lady's attention, even if she had no intention of making a marriage.
In chapter five Erauso again loses a position over a sexual indiscretion and the impossible prospect of a looming marriage. Here, in Lima, she is comfortably accommodated until
At the end of nine months [my master] informed me that I should seek my living elsewhere. The reason for this was that he had two young maidens living in his house, sisters of his wife, and with whom (and above all with one who was especially fond of me) I used to frolic and fool around. And one day he happened by a window and saw us in the parlour. Reclining in her petticoats, she was combing my hair, our legs entangled. He heard her telling me that I should go to Potosí and earn money so we could get married. He withdrew and summoned me shortly. He questioned me, settled accounts, and I departed.(67)
Again, the inference of a deeply felt inclination to "frolic and fool around" with females (along with an understandable aversion to marriage) is easily made.
In chapter six Catalina ends up stationed with her own un-suspecting brother in Chile where she helps herself to his hospitality as well as his girlfriend.
... I remained with my brother as his aide, dining at his table for nearly three years without his ever realizing anything. I went with him sometimes to the house of a girlfriend he had there. Other times I went there without him. He found out about this and took it hard, telling me to keep away from there. He lay in wait for me and caught me at it again. When I came out he attacked me with his belt and injured my hand.(68)
Along with Catalina's brother, we, too, might well suspect that her interest in the woman was more than platonic.
In chapter seven Catalina ends up rescued from the brink of death high in the Andes and nursed back to health by a prosperous rancher, a widow with an unmarried daughter. And here we have more evidence of Erauso's attitude towards women:
After having me there for eight days, the good woman told me that I could stay there and be master of the house. I expressed much appreciation for the kindness she showed me in my waywardness, and I offered to serve her as best I could. After a few more days she gave me to understand that she would consider it a favor if I would marry the daughter that she had there with her. The daughter was very dark, and ugly as the devil, very contrary to my taste, which was always the pretty faces.(69)
While the foregoing suggests that doña Catalina de Erauso was an active homosexual, such a contention is also supported by the observations of Erauso that appear in the chronicles of certain writers that she encountered along the way. One such was Pietro Della Valle, known as "Il Pellegrino," who wrote an account of his travels in the East which was published in Rome in 1663.(70) Therein Della Valle offers a detailed physical description of Erauso as well as a purported firsthand witnessing of her story that is consistent with what we have already seen. Della Valle observes, in the form of a letter dated June 11, 1626,
On the fifth of June the Basque lieutenant Catalina de Erauso came to my house for the first time, having come from Spain and just arrived in Rome. [ ] Her compatriot Father Rodrigo de San Miguel was my friend and introduced me to her. [ ] Tall and sturdy of stature, masculine in appearance, she has no more bosom than a little girl. She told me she had applied I don't know what method to make it disappear. I believe it was a plaster administered by an Italian; the effect was painful but much to her liking. She is not bad looking, but well worn by the years. [ ] She has the look of a Spanish gentleman and wears her sword as big as life, tightly belted. [ ] Only by her hands can one tell that she is a woman as they are full and fleshy, although large and strong, and occasionally gesture effeminately.(71)
The last great exploit of Catalina de Erauso further clarifies her sexual preferences. This account of an incident after her return to the Indies in 1630 is related by a Mexican historian:
The Nun Lieutenant arrived in Mexico when the Marquis of Cerralvo was governing New Spain and on the trip from Veracruz to Mexico fell in love with a woman whose parents had charged her to deliver to Mexico, aware that doña Catalina was a woman, although dressing as a man. That affair produced great displeasure and she was at the point of fighting the man whom the lady had married. Doña Catalina challenged him in a letter but some influential people managed to prevent the duel.(72)This report also illustrates the naiveté of Erauso's contemporaries in their inability to recognize or comprehend the nature of her sexual inclination. The parents apparently thought that her daughter could have no better protector than--another woman!
8. A Note on the Basques
Numerous Basques were counted among the mariners, clerics, and conquistadors who opened up the lands of Spain's new American Empire. In the era of La Monja Alférez, sophisticated, educated, and ambitious Basques were moving into the conquered American territories in ever greater numbers to consolidate, administrate, and profit from the gains of their daring and flamboyant predecessors.(73) Basques rose to many positions of authority and influence throughout the Spanish Empire, in government, church, and private enterprise, all of which were deeply intertwined.
No better example of Basque political skill and acumen can be found than in the way this people became associated with Castile and later, a united Spain. Before the thirteenth century, the Basques comprised a group of sovereign feudal duchies with a common tongue (various dialects of the language known as Euskera). In the innumerable wars of the period among the kingdoms of northern Spain, a set of circumstances developed with the result that some of these Basque territories, namely Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya, after they ceased to be ruled by Asturias and Navarre, were voluntarily incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile.
In the case of Vizcaya this occurred in 1379 when the Castilian King Enrique II acquired the lordship of the place through marriage (King Alfonso III had peacefully annexed Guipúzcoa in 1200). In both cases the locals did not seem to mind as the alliance amounted to an improvement over previous governments and delivered considerable benefit to both sides: the Castilian kings got the loyalty and support of the fierce Basques who would act as a buffer between Castile and the rival kingdom of Navarre. The Basques got even more. Among other things, all of their ancient traditions and statutes (compilated and called Fueros in Castilian) were to be respected as law.
The fueros were collections of local laws and
customs together with special economic and
political immunities underwritten by the kings of
Castile (and later Spain) in return for political
allegiance to the monarchy.(74)
Indeed, that the king of Castile would defend these to the death was written into the agreements and in such compelling terms that no Castilian monarch could be crowned who had not first sworn to uphold the Fueros under the Sacred Oak of Guernika.(75) But the most powerful clause for the Basques was the one which bestowed the status of nobility on every last one of them. This distinction was granted by Castile partly owing to the Fueros (which continued to evolve after they were first codified in the thirteenth century) and partly in grateful recognition of the fact that--in the case of the provinces of Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya at least--they had never allowed themselves to be conquered by the dreaded Moors. Concerning the historical development of the fueros, Heiberg writes
The culminating achievement of the sixteenth century was the extension of the status of nobility, hidalguía, to all native residents of Vizcaya in 1526 and Guipúzcoa in 1610.(76)
The fact of their noble status contributed greatly to the commercial successes of Basques in the seventeenth century. Their enhanced position in Spanish society fast-tracked them to positions of power and privilege not granted to the majority of citizens from other parts of Spain.(77) For this reason, the plucky Basques were often regarded with unquiet jealousy and resentment by other Spanish ethnic groups. Like the Sephardic Jews of an earlier Spain, they got where they were going by their own natural talent and shrewd business sense. But unlike the ill-fated Sephardim and their converso descendants, the Basques were Christians of unquestionable piety, and so there was no basis for attacking them as heretics.
The Basques kept their part of the bargain with Castille and for nearly five
centuries remained loyal to the Castilian kings, making contributions of inestimable value
to Spain's globe-girdling imperial enterprises.
1. Unfortunately this copy has been lost. The original Relaciones that appeared in Madrid and Seville very soon after Erauso's return to Spain and the submission of her petition to the Crown in 1624 are more coincident with the details of that petition and less replete with the kind of fabulous details appearing in later versions. No original copies of these survive and historians have had to make do with such re-edited versions as have appeared in other histories. I have used the reprinted versions that appear in J.Ignacio Tellechea I., Doña Cataliña de Erauso - La Monja Alférez. San Sebastián: Gráficas ESET, 1992.
2. This is possibly due to the denigrating opinion of R. Menendez-Pelayo who, apparently without seeing any of the supporting documentation, dismissed the Erauso autobiography as patently false (See Tellechea, 263).
3. See, Ferrer, Joaquín María de, Historia de la Monja Alférez (Doña catalina de Erauso), Madrid: Tipo Renovación. 1918. See also, Fitzmaurice-Kelly, James. The Nun Ensign, Translated from the Spanish with introduction and notes by James Fitzmaurice Kelly ... Also La Monja Alférez, a play in the original Spanish by J.P. de Montalván, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1908. For the most recent published translation of Erauso's autobiography see Michele Stepto and Gabriel Stepto, trans., Lieutenant Nun - Memoir of a Basque Transvestitein the New World - Catalina de Erauso, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996). As a source for translating the text, the authors employed the mentioned Tipo Renovación edition, as I did when I first took on the project in 1982.
4. Ministerio de Cultura, Archivo General de Indias, Contratación, 5408, No. 41. Also, Tellechea, 89-96.
5. See Appendix B.
6. José Berruezo, Catalina de Erauso - La Monja Alférez, San Sebastián: Gráficas Izarra, 1975, 43-59. The original Relaciones were the first published offerings of Erauso's story to a public whose appetite for more information had been stimulated by sensational rumors that had accompanied her back to Spain in 1624. They are brief and to the point and no doubt formed the basis for the many versions of the "autobiographies" that followed. From a historical standpoint these earlier accounts are probably the more reliable. The Relaciones mention, for example, the historical likelihood that she was in company with her brother Miguel de Erauso in Chile without his being aware of her identity, but do not portray the ironic and tragic event of her killing him by mistake that is one of the colorful but doubtless fanciful episodes of later versions.
7. Lesley Bird Simpson, Many Mexicos, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966, 168.
8. Berruezo, 45-47, and Tellechea, 74.
9. Ministerio, No. 41.
10. The line between the legendary and the historical has almost always been blurred in works
about Erauso, from her own purported autobiographies up until the most recent versions. In Stepto (1996) the reliability of the all the details of Erauso's story seems to be accepted without question. If this were so, Erauso would have certainly been defamed for the the number of capital crimes she is portrayed as having committed, but these alleged incidents are without any historical documentation. For a convincing attempt to separate fact from fiction in the life of Erauso see Tellechea, 1992.
11. Cruz, Anne J. and Perry, Mary Elizabeth, eds., Culture and Control in Counter-Reformation Spain, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 1.
12. Kamen, Henry, Inquisition and Society in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985) states on page 205, "In pre-Tridentine Spain, a low level of religious awareness and the persistence of traditional moral practices combined to produce far greater sexual freedom among all age groups than is commonly imagined." I suggest that the behavior of the common Spanish folk, if not their actual moral values, may be perceived in the details of works such as the Milagros de Nuestra Señora of Berceo in much the same way as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales offers a glimpse of the earthy ways of English Medieval peasants.
13. Cruz, 3.
14. Jean Pierre Dedieu, essay entitled "Christianization in New Castile Catechism, Communion, Mass, and Confirmation in the Toledo Archbishopric, 1540-1650", in Cruz, 4. In the synod of 1601, Cardinal Rojas added learning the Ten Commandments and the commandments of the Church to the list of requirements for marrying couples. (Ibid., 5-6).
15. Ibid., 4-5. The ecumenical council known as the Council of Trent opened in that city on 13 December, 1545, and closed there on 4 December, 1563. Its main object was to define the doctrines of the Church in the face of the rise of Protestantism. A further object was a thorough reform of the inner life of the Church by correcting the numerous abuses that had developed within it (which abuses had largely inspired the Protestant Reformation in the first place).
16. Kamen, 30.
17. Ibid., 205-214.
18. Edward C. Whitmont, Return of the Goddess, (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1982).
19. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1955), I, 148.
20. Gen., 2:18-24; 3:1-24.
21. Rogers, Katherine M., The Troublesome Helpmate--A History Of Misogyny in Literature, Seattle: University of Seattle Press, 1966, 41. See also Bettina L. Knapp, Women in Myth, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997, 47-50.
22. E.g., the Old Testament stories of Samson and Deliliah, David and Baathsheba, and Susanna.
23. McKendrick, Malveena. Women and Society in the Spanish Drama of the Golden Age: A Study of the 'Muger varonil'. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974, 5-10.
24. Kamen, 62-100.
25. Cruz, xvii-xviii.
26. Ibid., 124. The threat such un-chaste women might cause to their own souls or to those of other women was apparently of less concern than that which they caused to men's.
27. Saint-Saëns, Alain, ed. Religion, Body and Gender in Early Modern Spain, (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1991), 111.
28. McKendrick, 16-17.
29. Giles, Mary E., ed. Women in the Inquisition-Spain and the New World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1999, 190.
30. Ibid., 190. See also http://history.hanover.edu/early/trent.htm and http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15030c.htm. In the Tridentine decrees from the Twenty-fourth Session, DOCTRINE ON THE SACRAMENT OF MATRIMONY, CANON XII states: "If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema." This corroborates Poska's assertion that Tridentine decrees "facilitated the location and prosecution of those persons whose actions desecrated the sacrament" in that ecclesiastical courts were given jurisdiction in cases involving matrimony and wielded the power to detain, interrogate, and prosecute delinquents.
31. McKendrick, 44.
32. Saint-Saëns, 119. In this essay Anne J. Cruz states, "According to Iberian law, a husband or a father had the right to kill a wife or daughter's illicit sexual partner, but he was also obligated to kill the woman." If he didn't, there was nothing to stop the Church from meting out its own punishment should the case be brought to its attention. If a woman was wronged by an aldulterous husband she had no recourse against him, but she could sue his correspondent (See also McKendrick, 15, and Cruz, 154).
33. Fray Luis de León, in his La perfecta casada written in 1583, was the first orthodox cleric to add his voice to literary writers in praise of women. Perhaps the only true feminist of his time, his appraisal of women was realistic rather than idealized. The churchman wrote that, while women are physically and emotionally weaker than men, this does not make them inferior to men. He stressed the principle of women's nobility, dignity, and equality, even suggesting their moral superiority over men owing to the fact that, if it is harder for women to be good due to their inherent weakness, then goodness in women has even greater value than in men (See McKendrick, 10-11).
34. Saint-Saens, 67 and 69, n.11. Cloistering of male orders, although not unknown, was apparently less of a concern, as was the chastity of men in general.
35. Catalina de Erauso was such an example, as we shall see.
36. Erauso's case benefitted accordingly when the fact that she had never been a professed nun was unequivocally determined. Had it been otherwise she would have been obliged to return to the life of the religious. The sobriquet "La Monja Alférez" is, therefore, partly misleading; Erauso did achieve the military rank of alférez but was never more than a novice in the Dominican order.
37. Cruz, 126.
38. Ibid., 126-127.
39. Ibid., 129.
40. Ibid., 140-141.
41. Ibid., 135.
42. Ibid., 136.
43. Ibid., 141.
44. Ibid., 139.
45. "El mundo al revés" expressed the fear that the social order was being undermined by events and by certain dangerous individuals. An example of the "el mundo al revés" motif is found in Lope's play Fuenteovejuna. The play tells the story of the sexual abuse a knight of Calatrava perpetrates on the young women of his village. When a young peasant man prevents him from raping another young girl by threatening him with his own crossbow, the nobleman is incensed by the act which he considers criminal interference with his Rights of Lordship. He complains to his manservant, "Que a un capitán cuya espada tiemblan Córdoba y Granada, un labrador, un mozuelo ponga una ballesta al pecho! El mundo se acaba, Flores." But things get even worse for Lope's villain. When the lord prepares to hang the offender he is attacked by a group of women-turned-avenging-amazons who finish him off in a scene of bloody mayhem and murder. (Eugenio Suárez-Galbrán Guerra, ed., Antología del teatro del Siglo de Oro, Madrid: Editorial Orígenes, 1989, 57-128).
46. Dekker, Rudolf M. and van de Pol, Lotte, The Tradition of Female Transvestism in Early Modern Europe, London: The MacMillan Press Ltd., 1989, 6-7.
47. Ibid, 2-3.
48. McKendrick, 311. It is significant to note that Catalina de Erauso's life co-incided with this popular theatrical trend.
49. It might also be said that Lope had more than a passing interest in women of ambivalent sexual nature as well as an awareness of them that far surpassed most of his contemporaries. This is suggested by an excerpt from his letter to the Duke of Sessa: "Dizenme que estan in Madrid mui quexosas mugeres de que, siendo tan faciles, aya onbres presos por traydores a la naturaleza." (McKendrick, 27).
50. Erauso's legendary persona did suffer this Taming of the Shrew sort of fate in La Monja Alférez, a play written by Lope de Vega disciple J.P. de Montalván in 1626.
51. McKendrick., 8.
52. Ibid., 320-321
53. Kamen writes "The Inquisition was equally harsh to sodomizers (whether of men or of women), but tended to restrict [the prescribed punishment of ] death by burning only to those aged over twenty-five." (Kamen, 208). This sentence is the only one in Kamens's study that might conceivably allow for the existence of female sodomizers in Counter-Reformation Spain, and probably doesn't. Homosexual acts between women in this period seemed to have been either unknown or ignored. For an enlightening and detailed study of a case of female homosexuality in Renaissance Italy see Judith Brown, Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
54. Dekker, 55.
55. Interestingly, Erauso hints that she was recognized by some of the sisters in her former convent (see last paragraph, Chapter I).
56. This episode, like some others in the autobiography translated herein, has no historical basis in fact.
57. The details of this episode (whether or not another of the work's fictitious embellishments) are especially interesting as they underline the conflicting jurisdiction of Church and secular authorities in criminal cases in Counter Reformation Spain and its territories. Before Erauso's scheduled execution her confessor arrives and suggests that she might cheat the gallows if, when she receives communion, she spit the Host back out into her hand and shout, "I am the Church!", which she does. The officiating priest orders no one to approach her and, upon finishing the Mass, summons the bishop to the jail. The bishop orders her brought to the cathedral under guard where she is subjected to an arcane cleansing ritual. Once inside, she claims sanctuary and is beyond the reach of the law.
58. Erauso's certified virgin status was another boon to her credibility, especially when she stood before the Pope.
59. Ministerio, 41.
60. Simpson, 167.
61. McKendrick, 316.
62. Dekker, 57.
63. Judith Brown, Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 6.
64. The re-invention of La Monja Alférez by a host of writers, playwrights, and artists, from her own times to the present, is analyzed by Sherry Velasco in The Lieutenant Nun - Transgenderism, Lesbian Desire, and Catalina de Erauso, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001). Velasco discusses how writers "have manipulated the Lieutenant Nun icon for varying and, at times, opposing ideological purposes" while portraying as her as everything from a pious virgin nun with a knack for sword fighting to a monstrous hybrid. This they often did, I aver, in order to enhance their own agendas, ideologies--and pocketbooks, as Erauso herself was the first to do. But given the spectacular quality of Erauso's persona and adventures, along with the fact that so many details are absent in her narrative, the temptation to render a freehanded artistic interpretation of her character has proven irresistible. The result of my own personal effort down this path may be read in Appendix C (at the end of part III).
65. McKendrick, 214.
66. Pedrick, 5.
67. Ibid., 7.
68. Ibid., 8. This episode of a quarrel between the siblings over a woman appears in the early Relaciones, lending it more credibility.
69. Ibid., 12. See also Berruezo, 39.
70. Tellechea, 125.
71. Ferrer, vii-viii (my translation from the introduction by José María de Heredia).
72. Vicente Riva Palacio, Méjico através de los siglos, (Mexico: Porrúa S.A. 1946, 166.), my translation. This famous Mexican episode is also elaborated in Valle-Arizpe, Artemio de, Amores y picardías - Leyendas, tradiciones, y sucedidos del México Virreinal, (Mexico: 1933, pp. 109-131; likewise in Luis Gonzáles Obregón, Leyendas de las calles de México, (Mexico: Aguilar 1976, 105-113. Obregón points out that the episode appeared in the Última y tercera relación (in its various editions) that appeared in Mexico shortly after the death of La Monja Alférez there in 1653.
73. E.g., explorer Juan de Elcano who served as Magellan's navigator, churchmen St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, and Lope de Aguirre, a conquistador who defied King Phillip II, to name only a few.
74. Marianne Heiberg, The Making of the Basque Nation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 1989, 18.
75. Although the fueros were finally rescinded in the aftermath of the Carlist Wars of the nineteenth century, this tradition has been revived symbolically by the present Spanish monarch, King Juan Carlos II. The ancient Sacred Oak of Guernika is now a mummified trunk and decorates the Casa de Juntas (legislature) of the Basque Autonomous Region of Spain.
76. Ibid., 26. See Also see footnote 9.
77. For example, noble status meant protection from judicial torture, the most common means of obtaining confessions from suspects in criminal cases.
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