Catalina de Erauso Lieutenant Nun

Catalina de Erauso, also known as La Monja Alférez (English, The Nun Lieutenant) (1592, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain—1650, Cuetlaxtla, New Spain), was a semi-legendary personality of Spain and Spanish America in the first half of the seventeenth century.

Catalina de Erauso was daughter and sister of soldiers from the city of San Sebastian in the Basque Country. 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.
She 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 under the name Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán. She served under several captains, supposedly including her own brother, who never recognized her.
After one fight in which she killed a man and was wounded apparently fatally, she revealed her gender 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 him 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.
She went to Rome and toured Italy, where she eventually achieved such a level of fame that she was granted a special dispensation by Pope Urban VIII to wear men's clothing.
Her portrait by Francesco Crescenzio is lost. Back in Spain, Francisco Pacheco (Velázquez's father-in-law) painted her in 1630.
She again left Spain in 1645, this time for New Spain in the fleet of Pedro de Ursua, where she became a mule driver on the road from Veracruz. In New Spain she used the name Antonio de Erauso.
She died in Cuetlaxtla, New Spain in 1650.

Pedro del 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.

Petition of Catalina de Erauso to the Spanish Crown, 1625

  Sir: The Ensign Doña Catalina de Erauso, resident andnative of the town of San Sebastián, in the province of Guipúzcoa,says that of the last 19 years she has spent 15 in the service of YourMajesty in the wars of the kingdom of Chile and the Indians of Peru, havingtraveled to those parts in men's garbs owing to her particular inclinationto take up arms in defense of the Catholic faith and in the service ofYour Majesty without being known in the aforesaid kingdom of Chile duringthe entire time she spent there as other than a man. Only some years later,in the lands of Peru, was it discovered under circumstances unfitting tomention here that she was a woman. And, being under the command in thekingdom of Chile of the Ensign Miguel de Erauso, her legitimate brother,she never revealed herself to him, though she knew that he was her brother:she denied their blood ties to avoid being recognized. In all the timeshe served with him, as well as under the command of the Field Master DonDiego Bravo de Sarabia, she withstood the discomforts of military servicelike the strongest man, known only as such in every battle. Her deeds earnedher the right to carry Your Majesty's flag, serving as she did as Ensignof the infantry company of Captain Gonzalo Rodríguez under the assumedname of Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán. In that period,she distinguished herself with great courage and valor, suffering wounds,particularly in the battle of Peru. The troops having been reorganized,she moved to the company of Captain Guillén de Casanova, governorof the castle of Arauco, and was chosen as a valiant and fine soldier togo out and do battle with the enemy. All of the above, and more, is recordedin the certificates and testimonies of Don Luis de Céspedes, Governorand Captain General of Paraguay, formerly of the infantry of Chile; ofDon Juan Cortés de Monroy, Governor and Captain General of Veraguas,also of the infantry in Chile; and of Don Francisco Pérez de Navarrete;all three of whom, as well as others who were her superiors and field masters,are presently at court and know her very well, having seen her serve YourMajesty and knowing that she served as Captain in the aforesaid kingdomsof Chile and Peru...
  She begs that Your Majesty be pleased to order that her servicesand long wanderings and valiant deeds be rewarded, thereby showing hisgreatness; [rewarding her] for the worthiness of her deeds and for thesingularity and prodigiousness of her life, mindful that she is the daughterof noble and illustrious parents who are principal citizens in the townof San Sebastián; and for the rectitude and rare purity in whichshe has lived and lives, to which many have borne testimony; for whichshe would be honored to receive a yearly stipend of seventy pesos apportionedin 22 quilates per month in the city of Cartagena de las Indias, and fundsto travel there, rewards that she hopes Your Majesty in his greatness willprovide. 
  Translated by Stephanie Merrim from the document in JoséToribio Medina, Biblioteca Hispano-Chilena, 1523-1817. Vol. 1 (Amsterdam:N. Israel, 1965, reprint).

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