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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor



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Catalina de Erauzo

ERAUZO, Catalina de (arow'tho), also called Erauso and Erase, Spanish adventuress, born in San Sebastian de Guipuzcoa, province of Biscay, Spain, 10 February 1585; died in Cuitaxtla, near Orizaba, Mexico, in 1650. She was the daughter of Captain Miguel de Erauzo. At the age of four years she was placed in a Dominican convent; but on 18 March 1600, she scaled the wall and escaped to the woods, where, subsisting on herbs and roots, she remained three days, and in that time transformed her habit into that of a Dominican lay friar.

Proceeding in male attire to Vitoria, she found employment as an amanuensis. Subsequently she was a page, and then, under an assumed name, visited her native place and heard mass in the very convent from which she had so lately escaped. Thence she went to Valladolid, and became page to the king's private secretary. After this Catalina obtained a sum of money and went to Bilbao, thence to the port of Dasajes, where she embarked for San Lucar, and bound herself as cabin boy on board a galleon commanded by her uncle, who did not recognize her. She sailed in the fleet commanded by General Luis Fernandez de Cordova, which reached Punta de Araya, near Cumana, and there destroyed a small Dutch squadron. Next she went to Panama, and thence to Sana, and there took charge of a shop, managing it to the entire satisfaction of her employer.

On one occasion, while at the theatre, Catalina was annoyed by a man named Reyes, who threatened to disfigure her face, and on the following day went to the shop with the purpose of provoking her. When he left she got a knife, made it into a sort of saw, and, girding on her sword, went in search of Reyes. She found him near the door of a Church, rushed upon him, and crying, "This is the face that is to be disfigured," tore his face with the rude weapon. A friend of Reyes then attacked her, but she wounded him dangerously, and then took refuge in a Church.

Her employer, who entertained feelings of friendship for the sister-in-law of the wounded Reyes, thought matters would be brought to a satisfactory termination by a marriage between her and his clerk. Catalina gave her employer to understand that nothing could induce her to marry. She then went to Trujillo to take charge of another shop. Reyes, with two others, followed and attacked her, but Catalina defended herself against all three, and killed one of them. Ordofio, the chief magistrate, was taking her to prison, when, passing by a Church, he allowed her to take refuge in it. He was from Biscay, and she had chanced to speak to him in the Basque dialect.

She next went to Lima, and after some months enlisted as a soldier, under the assumed name of Ahmso Diaz Ramirez de Guzman, in the expedition that was to be sent to Chili. The company was commanded by Captain Gonzalo Rodriguez, and formed part of the forces sent to Concepcion under the command of Sarabia, but made the campaign under the command of Governor Ribera, whose secretary was Captain Miguel de Erauzo, whom she knew to be her brother, but he did not recognize her. But he found that Ramirez de Ouzman frequented a certain gambling saloon, and caused her transfer to Paicabi (Arauco), where she remained three years in service.

She accompanied the expedition to Valdivia, where, in a severe engagement, she with two soldiers rushed in among the Indians, mill both soldiers perished in the fight; but Catalina wounded many, and killed a cacique, after receiving three wounds from arrows and one from a lance. For this exploit she was appointed ensign, and served as such in the company of Alonso Moreno, in the battle of Puren, and when her captain fell she took his place and led the company bravely. Afterward Catalina took part in other engagements, and was wounded many times by arrows. She fought with the famous cacique Quispehuancha, unhorsed him, and then had him hanged on a tree.

When Catalina was at Nacilniento she obtained a sixmonths' leave of absence, to return to Concepcion, and while there was insulted in a gambling saloon by an officer, whom she wounded in the breast, and took refuge in a Church. The governor had the Church surrounded for six months, and by this time the fury of the people had abated. Catalina left, accompanied by the ensign Don Juan Silva, who had asked her to be his second in a duel with Don Francisco Rojas. Silva being wounded and Rojas killed, Catalina fought with the second of the latter while the moon was obscured by a cloud, so that she did not see the face of her opponent. The cloud passed away and Catalina looked upon the face of her brother, whom she had killed. She then set out on a journey to Tucuman (in the Argentine province). Some idea may be formed of her hardships and sufferings on that perilous journey from the fact (as she herself relates) that for the first time in her life she shed tears. When she saw two deserters and two Indians who accompanied her perish of hunger and cold, her heart tidied her for a moment, but she killed a horse, and, subsisting on its flesh, continued her journey. After traveling a long time, she came to a farm, whose owner, a widow, treated her with the greatest kindness, and wanted Catalina to marry her daughter. She went to Tucuman, as if for the purpose of celebrating the marriage, but fled, and directed her steps to Potosi, accompanied by a soldier. On the way a gang of robbers, two of whom they killed, attacked them.

She reached Potosi, and was for a short time valet to Governor Arguijo, but soon joined the command of the corregidor of Potosi, who was raising troops to put down an insurrection headed by Ybanez, and took part in a severe engagement. She was made aide-de-camp to General Alba, and accompanied him on an expedition against the Mojos Indians. After this she went to Charcas, where she was employed by a merchant, whose business prospered rapidly under her able management ; but she had a dispute at the gaming table, and fought a duel with the cousin of the bishop, killing her adversary.

In Pomabamba (Bolivia), Catalina had another duel, in which she killed her adversary, and was thrown into prison and put to the torture. She made no confession, but was sentenced to die, refused to receive the consolations of the Church, and ascended the scaffold. But an order arrived from President Don Diego de Portugal to suspend the execution and send the culprit to Chuquisaca, as it had been proved that the declarations of the witnesses were false. Catalina went to Cochabamba. A nun named Ulloa induced the president of Charcas to commission Catalina to conduct the trial of Francisco Escobar, who had treacherously killed two Indians. The result of the trial was that she condemned him to be hanged, and the sentence was carried into execution.

Catalina next went to La Paz, where the servant of the corregidor enraged her by throwing his hat in her face. Catalina stabbed him with her dagger, and he fell, mortally wounded. She was imprisoned, sentenced to die, and was allowed two days to prepare for death, but finally escaped. When the viceroy, Marquis de Nontesclaros, was preparing a fleet to attack the naval forces of the Dutch in the Pacific, under the command of George Spilberg, Catalina joined the fleet, and embarked in the "A1mirante," which, stranded off Canete, was completely destroyed in the conflict. Catalina was one of the few persons that were saved, and fell into the hands of the Dutch, but were set free at Payta. She went to Lima, and, after a stay of seven months, proceeded to Cuzco. Here she was a great favorite with the ladies.

On one occasion, in a gambling saloon, she met a Spaniard commonly known as the "Cid." He was repulsive and quarrelsome, but courageous. The " Cid" took his seat beside her. Twice he took from the table the money she had won; but on his making the third attempt she pinned his hand to the table with her poniard. The " Cid," with two of his friends, attacked her; she, battling with all three, made her way to the Street, where two Biscayan friends came to her aid. The "Cid" wounded Catalina in the back and in the left side, and she fell, bleeding profusely. Faint from loss of blood, she believed herself to be dying, and longed to reveal her sex. Rousing herself, she saw the " Cid " standing opposite the Church at whose door she lay. The dying woman rose, staggered toward the " Cid," and thrust her sword through his body, killing him on the instant.

The corregidor arrived, and, seeing her dangerous wound, ordered her to confess. She revealed the secret of her sex to the priest, and was taken to the house of the treasurer Alcedo. After many more adventures, mostly personal encounters, she met Bishop Agustin de Carvajal, to whom she related the story of her life, telling him she was willing to submit to examination by a committee of matrons, adding" that she still preserved her purity. It was proved by the declarations of the matrons that she had spoken the truth. Catalina lived in a convent in 1620'2, then traveled to New Granada, and sailed for Spain, arriving in Cadiz, 1 December 1624. Her fame had preceded her, and crowds thronged the Streets with cries of "Long life to valor!" Long live the ensignnun !"

In Madrid she presented an account of her services to King Philip IV, who granted her a pension for life of 800 crowns. Catalina set out for Barcelona, but before arriving there was robbed. From Barcelona she went to Genoa, and thence to Rome, where the pope, Urbano VIII, granted her an audience, and, having heard the narrative of her adventures, gave her absolution for all the crimes she might have committed, with permission to dress in male attire for the rest of her life.

She next, went to Naples, and thence to Spain, remaining in Seville until 1630, in which year she embarked again for Havana, and thence for Mexico, as ensign in the fleet commanded by Captain de Echazarreta. In Mexico she made a long campaign, and, as usual, distinguished herself by her bravery in battle, and after some years retired from the service, bought a string of packmules, and began trade between the City of Mexico and Vera Cruz. A certain rich merchant commissioned her to take a young lady from Jalapa. Catalina enchanted with the beauty of the young lady, grew very fond of her; but when they reached Mexico a nobleman became enamored of the girl, and, although Catalina offered to place $3,000 at interest in her name, and give her half her pension, if she would become a nun, the young lady married the nobleman.

Unable to endure the absence of her beloved friend, Catalina went to the house of the latter, where she was well received; but as she repeated her visits too often, the lady, jealous of her reputation, persuaded her husband to forbid Catalina the house. At this the latter almost lost her reason, and challenged the husband, who declined to measure swords with a woman. A short time afterward the husband was defending himself against three men who had attacked him, when Catalina took up his defense and vanquished them.

In 1650, on her way to Vera Cruz, she fell ill at Cuitaxtla, and in a few days expired, and was buried at Orizaba. Archbishop Palafox, of Mexico, caused a eulogistic epitaph to be inscribed on her tomb in 1651. The memorial presented by her to King Philip IV is referred to on page 13,5 of the book published by Don Joaquin Maria Ferret, and was accompanied by a certification of Don Luis de Cespedes Feri, governor of Paraguay, of Don Francisco Perez de Navarrete, of Don Juan Cortes de Monroy, governor of Veraguas, and of General Don Juan Recio de Leon. The king and the pope called her Ensign Dona Catalina Erauzo. Don Pedro de la Valle, in a work on his voyages (1630), says he knew her in Rome, and that in that City Francesco Crecencio executed a portrait of her. The history of her life, written by herself, was published in Mexico in 1653. The Rev. Nicholas Renteria in 1693 gave a succinct account of her life. The poet Juan Perez de Montalban wrote a drama entitled " La. Monja Alf6rez "(" The EnsignNun "), which was represented in Lima and in Seville at the beginning of the present century. Don Candido M. Trigueros wrote a poem on Doria, Catalina. Erauzo (Seville, 1784). Gil Gonzalez Davila, in his life of Philip III gives a succinct account of Dona Catalina. He mentions that he met her at an inn in the dress of a soldier, and that he saw her wounds, and the documents that proved her services.

Joaquin M. Petter published her history (Paris, 1829), taken from her memoirs. In 1630 Paeheco made a fulllength portrait of her from the following description: "She is tall, for a woman; her eyes are large, black, and brilliant; her lips red and full; her nose rather short, the nostrils dilated; her neck is short; her figure, neither good nor bad; her hair short, and anointed with pomade, according to the fashion. Her gait is light and elegant; her manners natural; her hands alone are feminine, but rather in gestures than in form. There is a light brown down on the upper lip."

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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