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Erauso, Catalina de (ca 1592-ca 1650)  
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Sheila McLaughlin's She Must Be Seeing Things

Lesbian director Sheila McLaughlin presents Erauso's story as a film-within-a-film in She Must Be Seeing Things (1987). The contemporary story-line concerns Jo, a lesbian making a film about Erauso entitled Catalina, and her jealous partner Agatha, who fears that Jo may be attracted to men. The film Catalina takes certain liberties in recounting Erauso's life, including rewriting an incident to give it a lesbian slant.

In her memoir Erauso described rescuing María Dávalos from her husband, Pedro de Chavarría, who had discovered her with another man. When Erauso arrived on the scene, Chavarría had already murdered the man and was attempting to kill Dávalos. Erauso conveyed the terrified woman to the safety of a convent where Dávalos's widowed mother was living as a nun.

The memoir suggests no romantic motive for the rescue. In Catalina, however, the two women run away together at the end of the film. This reassures Agatha about Jo, thus resulting in a happy resolution for both female couples.

Erauso as Icon

Erauso has become more of an icon than an individual. At various times, including during the Franco regime (1939-1975), she has been portrayed as a heroic patriot for her military service to Spain; at others, she has been characterized as a law-breaking anti-hero. She has been cited as a "proto-feminist" and celebrated as a lesbian, but her story has sometimes been refashioned to make her asexual or even heterosexual.

The Basque government has claimed her as an ethnic heroine, sponsoring the publication of a Basque translation of her memoir in 1976.

She is also commemorated by the Colegio Público Catalina de Erauso, an elementary school and kindergarten, that stands on a street bearing her name in her hometown of San Sebastián. The school may seem a rather curious choice for a tribute to the transgressive Erauso, but perhaps it can be seen as yet another facet of the legend already composed of so many images.

Linda Rapp

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literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Lesbian

In the first century of its existence, lesbian autobiography has moved from being coded to being outspoken, and it is both wide ranging and contradictory in the stories that it tells.

literature >> Overview:  Spanish Literature

Treating homosexuality in Spanish literature is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon, occurring most frequently in the post-Franco decades.


Erauso, Catalina de. Historia de la Monja Alférez. José María de Heredia, ed. Lima: Biblioteca Nacional del Perú, 1988.

__________. Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World. Michele Stepto and Gabriel Stepto, trans. Foreword by Marjorie Garber. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Perry, Mary Elizabeth. "The Manly Woman: A Historical Case Study." American Behavioral Scientist 31 (September/October 1987): 86-100.

Velasco, Sherry. The Lieutenant Nun: Transgenderism, Lesbian Desire & Catalina de Erauso. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Erauso, Catalina de  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2003  
    Date Last Updated October 7, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2003, glbtq, inc.  


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