Catalina de Erauso 1592- 1650
Born to a noble family in Spain, Catalina de Erauso was expected to become a nun from the time she was old enough to walk. She was raised in a nunnery and was severely displeased with the life style. At the age of fifteen, she was beaten as a punishment, something that ended up being the final straw for Catalina. She escaped the convent, cut her hair and put on men’s clothing. She was ready to make her own adventure in the world.
Catalina took work as a cabin boy and traveled to the new world. In Panama she jumped ship and traveled to Peru, where she worked as a manager in a store. This was steady work for Catalina until she injured a relative of her employer’s mistress in a duel.
“I closed the shop, grabbed up a knife, and went looking for the barber to grind the blade to a sawtoothed edge, and then, throwing on my sword - it was the first I ever wore - I went looking for Reyes and found him where he was strolling by the church with a friend.
I approached him from behind and said, “Ah, señor Reyes!”
He turned and asked, “What do you want?”
I said, “This is the face you were thinking of cutting up,” and gave him a slash worth ten stitches.
He clutched at the wound with both hands, his friend drew his sword and came at me, and I went at him with my own. We met, I thrust the blade through his left side and down he went
Her employer thought the best way to ensure Catalina did not face prosecution was that she marry his mistress. Catalina, still dressed as a man, was the only one who knew the flaw in this plan. So she ran away to Lima, leaving the mistress heartbroken and her employer befuddled. In Lima, Catalina made a comfortable living until her master saw her fooling around with a maid. The maid’s “hands were in her hair” and their “legs were entangled.” She was relieved from her position.
In Chile, the indigenous people were revolting and the government was looking for soldiers. Catalina enlisted and soon became a second Lieutenant. In was in the military that Catalina would reunite with her oldest brother, who did not recognize Catalina in men’s clothing. She flourished in the military. Catalina was constantly surrounded by pretty girls, she was promoted on more than one occasion and received honors from the governor. This schtick ended in tragedy however, when she accidentally killed her brother in a nighttime duel. Heartbroken, she left the army and expressed her sorrows through booze, gambling and picking fights with men. In one of these fights, Catalina was injured and near death. She called on a priest to give her last rites and then astonished everyone by confessing her gender. She then astonished everyone again, even herself, when she made a full recovery.
Again, Catalina fled, surrendering herself to a mad of God. He gave custody to local midwives who pronounced Catalina a woman and a virgin. She was sent to a convent, kicked out of the convent and then took off for Spain. There, she was surprisingly popular. She was given permission by the Pope to continue dressing like a man, and returned to South America to write her memoirs.