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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.