Journal: The Lieutenant Nun


Journal assignment completed for “The Self Before Selfies”

Catalina de Erauso, the Lieutenant Nun

To say that Catalina de Erauso led an interesting life would be an understatement. Her memoir The Lieutenant Nun is fascinating. Her adventures, schemes, and shenanigans reveal a lot about her identity. The introduction points out that in translation readers lose an important factor of de Erauso’s  identity which is the gender that she writes in. I wish there were notes that outlined which parts she used the feminine and masculine endings. Aside from de Erauso’s skills as a tactician and warrior, I admire her ability to keep a secret! With most adventures, she finds someone she is related to, yet she conceals her identity. She worked alongside her brother for three years and did not mention anything. She said nothing to her father or uncle either. She does not mention this, but I wonder if she struggled to keep her identity secret. Of course, she did not grow up with her siblings, and she would have likely faced repercussions for fleeing the convent and impersonating a man. I am sure that is what kept her quiet.

When she voyages to Tucuman, her companions die halfway through the strenuous voyage. She “wept – for what [she thought] was the first time in [her] life – [she] recited the rosary, commending myself to the Most Holy Virgin and to her husband, glorious Saint Joseph.”[1] I like this quote because it demonstrates that no matter the face de Erauso puts on in a new city or to a new employer, she cannot shake this part of herself. A phrase she uses is that she “led them to believe” things about herself, so she was very skilled in her ability to fool others. What are the long-term effects of putting on a façade? In closing, with the amount of times she escapes execution and prison, I aspire to have a social network as great as hers.

[1] de Erauso, Catalina. Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvetite in the New World, translated by Michele and Gabriel Stepto,(Beacon Press, Boston, 1996).

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