Gendering Latin American Independence
List All Links | List Writing | List Archives | List References | List All People

Home » Database » Search » People

Catalina de Erauso (La Monja Alférez)

Other names/titles:
Gender: F
Ethnic origin: White

Biographical details

Born in San Sebastian, Vizcaya, Spain in the 1590s, she was brought up in a convent from which she escaped before taking her vows when aged 15. She cut her hair and disguised herself as a boy and travelled around Spain working for a succession of masters before sailing to America. Pedro del Valle described her in 1626: "[She is] tall and robust in figure, basically masculine in appearance, with no more bust than a young girl. She told me she had employed some kind of remedy to make it disappear. … She looks more like a eunuch than a woman. She dresses as a man, Spanish style: she bears her sword as bravely as her life." She took the name Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán and became a soldier in Chile. She fought in the Araucanian wars for her brother, Miguel, who was unaware of her identity. She was given the title Alférez (ensign). She confessed her origins to the Bishop of Huamanga, Peru, who sent her to a convent. She refused and returned to Europe where the Spanish crown and Pope Urbano VIII gave her dispensation to dress as a man and use the name Monja Alférez. She went to Mexico where she worked as a muleteer until she died in 1650. She became a celebrity in her lifetime. Three anonymous Relaciones of her life were published in Spain in 1625 and in Mexico in 1653. Vida y sucesos de la Monja Alférez escrita por ella misma, was printed by Bernadino de Guzmán in 1625. This is not proven to have been written by her. A transcript of this is in the Real Academia, Madrid, with 18th century calligraphy and 17th century orthology and morpho-syntax, on which Joaquín María Ferrer based his 1829 edition. (Merrim, 177-205)

Socolow gives her year of birth as 1592.

She died in Mexico in 1650.

Life Events

Born 1590Born around the end of the sixteenth century. Some sources say 1592.
Died 1650Died in Mexico.


Cevallos-Candua, Francisco Javier; Cole, Jeffrey A.; Scott, Nina M.; Suáurez-Araúz, Nicomedes, (1994), Coded Encounters: Writing, Gender, and Ethnicity in Colonial Latin America

Socolow, Susan Migden, (1999), The Women of Colonial Latin America

Erauso, Catalina de, (1996), Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World

Davies, Catherine, Brewster, Claire and Owen, Hilary, (2006), South American Independence. Gender, Politics, Text


There is no writing by this subject in the database.


Resource id #29 (80)

Resource id #33 (98)

Resource id #37 (9)

Resource id #41 (27)

Resource id #45 (17)

Resource id #49 (17)

Gendering Latin American Independence

School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Trent Building, University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 5655