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TG History — Catalina de Erauso Part 2

| Oct 27, 2008
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Michelle Moore brings you TG History

This month TG History brings you part two of the tale of Catalina de Erauso, a hard living, tough, brawling, FtM from Spain in the 1500s. Not feeling suited for life as a nun Erauso went on the lam and adopted a male life style filled with the kind of bad choices often made by tough guys. It’s a tale of sword play, knife work and macho brawling. Things looked bad for Erauso in Part 1 last month. Did they get any better?


Catalina de Erauso

Transgender History is full of nice, law abiding persons who lived nice, law abiding lives. This ain’t one of them.

Catalina de ErausoOUR STORY SO FAR:
Catalina de Erauso was a transman born in 1585 Spain (yes, that was over 400 years ago). After escaping from a convent, Erauso assumes a male identity and under a number of aliases scourges his way across the country before joining the Spanish colonization of South America. While in Peru, Erauso was spending some quality time at the theatre when he has a confrontation with an arrogant man named Reyes, who threatens to disfigure his face.

The next morning Erauso had his own knife ground to razor sharpness, grabbed up his sword, and went off looking for the intemperate Reyes. Erauso found him walking in the street with a friend. “What do you want?” Reyes snarled. “This is the face you were thinking of cutting up!” Erauso said, giving Reyes a slash across his face that took ten stitches to close. As Reyes ran screaming in pain, Reyes’ companion drew his sword and came at Erauso. They dueled until Erauso’s own sword pierced the man’s left side. Erauso then did what any good Spaniard in trouble with the law did back then — he made for the nearest church, hoping to obtain Sanctuary there. Unfortunately the local Sheriff beat him to it and Erauso was arrested, clapped in irons, and thrown in jail. However, Erauso’s influential employer intervened and after months of appeals and legal maneuvering, Erauso was eventually released on his own recognizance. It was at this time Erauso found out why his employer had fought so hard for his release. Wishing to hold onto a good employee he offered Erauso marriage to his own mistress, the aforementioned Dona Beatriz de Cardenas. Interestingly, the lady didn’t seem to mind this arrangement at all. Quoting Erauso’s biography: “I used to sneak out at night to the lady’s house, and there she would caress me, and implore me to stay with her. Finally one night she locked me in and declared that come hell or high water I was going to sleep with her — pushing and pleading so much that I had to smack her one and slip out of there”.

After diplomatically explaining to his employer that marrying his mistress just wouldn’t work, Erauso was sent to distant Trujillo to set up shop there. Unfortunately who should show up one day but Reyes, along with the man Erauso had run through plus a third ruffian — all of whom looking for Erauso and revenge.

Joined by a friend of his own, Erauso fought them off until he once again ran his sword point through Reyes’ friend, this time for good. As they fought two-on-two the local sheriff arrived, apprehending only Erauso while the others escaped. However, it seemed that the local sheriff was also a fellow Basquero from the Basque region of Spain. In their native Basque tongue the sheriff suggested that as they were passing the nearby cathedral Erauso might want to consider making a break for it. Erauso took the hint and darted into the church while the sheriff made a show of bellowing for help. After his employer supplied him with fresh clothing, money, and a letter of introduction, Erauso slipped out of town.

Arriving in Lima, Erauso used his letter of introduction to secure meaningful employment with a wealthy merchant, Diego de Solerte. Erauso prospered but there was one problem — well, two problems actually, those being de Soltere’s two young nieces. Erauso began frolicking with them until one of the ladies took a fancy to him. Then one day Solarte was passing by a window and by bad luck happen to notice his niece combing Erauso’s hair — bad luck because at the same time Erauso happen to have his head up her skirts and was in the process of running his hands up and down her legs. It didn’t help that she was also urging the aroused Erauso to run way with her. Not surprisingly Erauso was fired on the spot.

Catalina de ErausoNext Erauso enlisted as a soldier, this time using the assumed name of Alonso Diaz Ramirez de Guzmán, going off with a company bound for Concepción, Chile. In another of those amazing coincidences, Erauso soon met the local governor’s secretary, Captain Miguel de Erauso, Catalina’s own brother. Having been separated since age two, Miguel didn’t recognize Catalina who nonetheless was overjoyed to see him. They became fast friends with Catalina dining at his table for three years. Unfortunately they shared something else in common — the same mistress. After being introduced to her by Miguel, Erauso then began paying her visits without him. What passed between Erauso and Miguel’s mistress is left to the reader’s imagination but Miguel himself was none too pleased when he found out, coming after Erauso belt in hand. After an ensuing fistfight, Erauso was banished to the remote hellhole of Paicabí­. He spent three hideous years there in the remote jungle, eating and sleeping in his armor surrounded by hostile Indians before the garrison was finally relieved.

Erauso eventually reconciled with Miguel and then joined an expedition to Valdivia where an overwhelming force of Mapuche Indians attacked them. The company was routed and the Indians sacked their encampment. Yet Erauso acquitted himself well, heroically recapturing the company flag from the enemy. Erauso received treatment for lance and arrow wounds but his real identity remaining undiscovered. The flag Erauso rescued was presented to the governor and Erauso was promoted to second lieutenant. Erauso served as a lieutenant five years and distinguished himself at the battle of Puren. When his captain fell Erauso took command of the company for six months, leading a string of successful engagements against the enemy. However, in one battle Erauso personally captured an influential local chief whom he promptly had strung up from the nearest tree, enraging the local governor who had wanted the chief taken alive. This cost Erauso a promotion and he spent the following months as a foot solider, slashing and burning the local Indian crops.

After obtaining a leave of absence Erauso returned to Concepción for some badly needed R&R. Unfortunately (there’s that word again) idle time and Erauso didn’t seem to mix well together. While recreating in a gambling saloon, a small disagreement led a fellow officer to accuse Erauso of “lying like a cuckold.” Publicly offended, Erauso quickly withdrew his knife and rammed it through the man’s chest. Almost immediately jumped by nearly everybody in the room, Erauso soon found himself answering questions from an irate local magistrate. At this point Erauso’s brother Miguel arrived, telling him in Basque to run for his life. Erauso needed no further encouragement. When the enraged judge shook him by the collar Erauso’s dagger sliced him across both cheeks, then back again for good measure. Whipping out his sword Erauso backed through the crowd and hightailed it to the local Franciscan church and Sanctuary. It was there Erauso learned both his companion and the judge were dead. The local Governor soon had the church surrounded and offered a reward for anyone taking Erauso alive. However, as months dragged on and petitions on Erauso’s behalf began piling up the guard around the church relaxed. It was then that a faithful moment in Erauso’s life occurred.

Still besieged at the church Erauso was visited by fellow lieutenant don Juan de Silva. It seems that Silva had been insulted by a certain don Francisco de Rojas, who then challenged Silva to a duel at 11:00 that very night. Silva needed a “second” and had no one to turn to but Erauso. Erauso naturally suspected a trap, yet touched by his friend’s plea he decided to take the risk.

Slipping out of the church at nightfall Silva and Erauso made their way to a secluded clearing. The darkness was so thick both men tied handkerchiefs around their arms so as not to mistake one other. Rojas was waiting and the men began dueling while Erauso and Rojas’ own second stood by in near total darkness. After Silva was wounded both seconds jumped in and it became a four-way battle. While the moon was obscured by a cloud Erauso ran Rojas’ second through the chest. The cloud passed away and Catalina looked upon the face of his own brother Miguel. Miguel died from his wounds and was buried in the same Franciscan monastery where the grieving Catalina had taken refuge.

Surrounded, wanted by the law, and with his brother dead surely this must be the end? Actually in a few short years Erauso will become a national hero honored to this day by both Spain and the Catholic Church (that’s right, the Catholic Church). How is this possible? See us next month for the conclusion.

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