Doña Catalina de Erazu, muleteer
Catalina escaped from her convent in male attire and swashbuckled her way from Spain to
Peru and Chile. She became famous as a swords woman Sometimes she worked as an arriero
(muleteer), sometimes a soldier. Her dueling and killing kept her in constant hot water
with the authorities. At one point , she escaped execution only by revealing that she was
a woman, a nun, and a virgin. Her case baffled the legal minds of Peru; she was sent back
to Spain for disposal. Spanish authorities gave up and turned her over to Pope who was so
intrigued by her story that he gave her dispensation to wear male clothing the rest of her
life. King Philip IV granted her a pension of 500 pesos. Catalina landed in New
Spain about 1640, took up the trade of arriero and became the terror of the Mexico
City-Veracruz road. Her career reached a fitting climax when she fall madly in love with
the wife of a young hidalgo. When he showed her the door, she challenged him to
mortal combat. The duel was prevented, however. She died as an arriero in 1650.
from Leslie Byrd Simpson, Many Mexicos (1964
edition), pp. 148-149
For more on this fascinating woman, see Alexis Zepeda
, The Lieutenant Nun:
Construction of Masculinity in Colonial Latin America.
You can read about this and other topics in colonial Latin American history by buying and reading
Colonial Latin America by Don Mabry.
Click on the book cover or the title to go to Llumina Press.