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Women in history. Catalina Erauso. From Nun to Lieutenant in America

Women in history. Catalina Erauso. From Nun to Lieutenant in America
Isabel del Rio

Women in history. Catalina Erauso, The Nun Lieutenant, ten things you should know:

Women in history. Catalina Erauso. From Nun to Lieutenant in America

Catalina de Erauso. The Nun Lieutenant

She was born in 1592 in San Sebastian, Spain, in a family of soldiers.

At the age of four, her parents put her in a convent. But at the age of fifteen, just before to take her vows, she escaped it.

Dressed as a man and calling herself “Francisco de Loyola” went to Bilbao, where she signed up on a ship.

She reached America and enlisted as a soldier in Chile under the false name of Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán. Afterwards, she served under different captains in the Arauco War. None recognized her, including her own brother.

She had a feisty character and was wounded several times, and also accused of killing other soldiers in fights.

To escape from prison, she confessed that she was a woman to Fray Agustin de Carvajal. Thus, she entered a convent and her story spread across the ocean.

By 1620, when she returned to Spain, she was really famous.

Curious, Pope Urban VIII called her to Rome and granted a special dispensation to wear men clothing.

Several important artists portrayed Catalina, including Francisco Pacheco, father-in-law of Diego Velazquez.

In 1645, she returned to America in the fleet of Pedro de Ursua and died in Cuetlaxtla, New Spain in 1650.

A legend in her time, a bold woman who was unwilling to accept the rules of a society that had cloistered her for life.

“On the night of March 18, 1600, on the eve of St. Joseph, the convent arose at midnight to pray. I entered the choir and found my aunt kneeling there. She summoned me, and giving me the key to her cell, asked me to fetch her breviary. I left to go get it, opened the door and picked it up. Seeing the keys to the convent hanging there on a nail, I left her cell door unlocked and returned the key and prayer book to my aunt. By now all the sisters were in the choir beginning the matins with solemnity.

After the first verse, I went to my aunt and asked to be excused because I was ill. Touching my forehead, she said, “Go on, go to bed.” I left the choir and, taking a light, went to my aunt’s cell. There I grabbed some scissors, a needle and thread, some pieces of eight * that were there, and the keys to the convent. Then, I left. I went along, opening doors and shutting them, and in the last one I left my scapular. I went out into the street (which I had never seen before) not knowing which way to turn or where to go.”

The Autobiography of doña Catalina de Erauso.

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