How Lieutenant Nun’s Spectacular and Ordinary Experiences are Both Similar and Different to the Male Conquistadors

Assignment Instructions

Portrait of Catalina de Erauso
Portrait of Catalina de Erauso

The autobiography of Catalina de Erauso, The Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World, complicates the stereotypical image that many people have of a 17th century Spanish conquistador. However, other than Catalina’s spectacular experiences of running away from a convent, fighting as a soldier, and escaping to the New World, Catalina de Erauso’s dreams and ambitions were not that different from the ordinary experiences, dreams, and ambitions of male conquistadors like Columbus or Cortès.

Reflect upon the ways that the Lieutenant Nun’s spectacular and ordinary experiences are both similar and different to the male conquistadors



  • In what ways did Catalina de Erauso challenge society’s expectations for a woman of Catalina’s age, race, and class status?
  • In what ways did Catalina conform to society’s expectations for a male conquistador?
  • How did Spanish colonization and the New World shape Catalina’s experiences?

Be sure to structure your essay in a traditional narrative format with an argument/thesis statement, introduction, body paragraphs with examples from the readings, and conclusion.


Sample Essay – Catalina de Erauso Spectacular and Ordinary Experiences


Catalina de Erauso was a Spanish woman who masqueraded as a man after running away from convent at the age of 15.  Normally, Spanish girls were taken in to the convent at a young age until they attained the marriage age. However, things were different in Catalina de Erauso case, whose parent disregarded her marriage due to her temperamental nature. She was forced to be a nun, a role that did not go very well with her. To escape this limited life, Catalina run away from the convent and changed her appearance into a man (Ferrer, 2007). Even after being brought up in a delicate convent life, Catalina was able to survive harsh conditions that the world presented to her after running away from convent. She tried to survive by adopting different male names to hide her identity and sometime to hide from people who he had grudges or unresolved conflict with. Despite being a woman, Catalina was able to enjoy Spanish conquistador experience that involved concurring enemies, and exploring the world. His experience was considerably unique following the fact that he had to pretend to be a man and hence she had to act as one and when the pressure was too much, he had to flee to avoid exposure (Ferrer, 2007). This paper focuses on determine how Lieutenant Nun’s ordinary and spectacular experiences were both different and similar to the male conquistador of 17th century.

How Catalina de Erauso Challenged Society’s Expectations for a Woman of her Class Status, Race and Age

In the 17th century, Spanish girls were educated in convent where they would learn church doctrines and reading as well as writing in Latin, Greek, and Spanish among other languages. Girls were also taught other subjects such as needlework and music. The study mostly began at the age of four, and ended when the girl reach teenage when they were considered to be ready for marriage. Catalina was not an exception in her growth. She was taken in a convent where she was educated like all other girls. upon reaching the marriage age, her parents decided against marrying her following her character. She was thus forced to become a nun something that was not in her. She first challenged the expectations of the society by running away from a convent where she was anticipated to take her vows to commit as a nun (Ferrer, 2007, Chapter 1). Instead of going home or seeking help from a relative as everyone would expect a poor, innocent 15 years girl would do, Catalina wondered on her own taking assistance from strangers. She also changed her appearance to a man, and perfectly took the roles that were defined as male upon herself where she managed them perfectly. She also separated herself with her family, where she lived on her own without caring to contact any of them. She even lived with her brother for a long time but did not disclose her identity to him. This was a rare thing as family values were highly respected during this time, especially by low class and middle class families. Women of her times were not allowed to fight in any war and hence they were not taken in the military. However, after assuming the men appearance, Catalina was able to defy the odd by serving in the army. She also engaged herself in various fights non-military fights, and murdered a number of people including her own brother. This was an immoral act that defied the odds in the society, especially when done by a woman since they were expected to be kind, and loving and never violent. She also engaged in other vices that made her to be labeled as a con, to be always on the run, and to be in jail (Ferrer, 2007).


Ways in Which Catalina Conformed to Society Expectations for a Male Conquistador

Male conquistadors were individuals from Portugal or Spanish origin who sailed past Europe to other continents opening trade routes and conquering territory. Male conquistadors sometimes enrolled in the army to fight poverty and to study in various disciplines that include languages, mathematics, history, art and theology.  Catalina conformed to society expectation by sailing from one region to another for business especially when employed by Juan de Urquiza. He also sailed looking for a new life especially after fights with different people in different occasions. This included after leaving Trujillo following the attack of the man who was seeking revenge (Ferrer, 2007, Chapter 5) and after murdering his brother. He often moved looking for a better in foreign land with no knowledge of anything or anyone in the town. He also joined the army like most male conquistadors of her time did, and played a major role in conquering Indian troop and reclaiming the Chile flag. This made her promoted to a lieutenant. He also played a great role in capturing an Indian captain who played various tricks for the troop he was leading as a captain, following the death of their captain. He could have risen to captain if he followed the instructions given of taking him alive as per the governor instructions. He therefore participated a great deal in conquering various troops for Chile (Ferrer, 2007). He also dressed like conquistadors, always having a weapon with him, as part of his attires. He as well managed to modify his body to look more like a man by use of some herbs to suppress the growth of his breast. In addition, he was always ready to leave from one place to another, using any possible means and without thinking much about it. He never made a permanent resident for long. All these characteristics made him conform to male conquistadors. However, Catalina killed and fought many people and not for personal development by conquering or benefiting from their resource, but due to her aggression that always forced her to pick a fight (Ferrer, 2007).

How the Spanish Colonization and the New World Shaped Catalina’s Experiences

The new world gave Catalina a chance to study during her life in convent and to explore the world after leaving the convent. The new world gave Catalina a chance to escape from women’s limited life that only involved marriage and taking care of the family. This made Catalina experience life above being a woman, an adventurous life that comprised of exciting and horrifying experience. The New world subjected Catalina in living life full of uncertainty, and depending on strangers, and trusting them easily for help. Dressing like a man gave Catalina a chance to travel and explore the world. He could easily interact with men of different categories and be easily accommodated following believe that he was equal to them since she appeared just like them. The Spanish colonization gave her a chance to work in the military where she perfected her fighting skills, and earned a living for a long time. She was able to experience military leadership and eventually got a pension for her service. The new world gave Catalina an exciting life compared to women who lived during her time, and eventually made her a celebrity to be remembered even after her death. However, this life limited her sexual life where she had to remain a virgin for ever since marriage would have exposed her true identity (Ferrer, 2007).


Catalina life was considerably different from normal women of her age, status, and race. Though she was expected to live by catholic order as a nun, Catalina defied this requirement and considered being a free woman in the new world. However, this could not have been possible as a woman. She thus assumed a male look and identity to be able to enjoy her freedom and to live without limitation. She managed to live an exceptional life for a woman, which was full of fun and adventures, especially in traveling and facing new life challenges in a new environment. Her life was very similar to a male conquistador, though a bit limited by the fact that he had to keep on running from the enemies he created through her high temper, and due to demands that he could not have met, following her male gender falsification.

Get Your Custom Paper From Professional Writers. 100% Plagiarism Free, No AI Generated Content and Good Grade Guarantee. We Have Experts In All Subjects.

Place Your Order Now
Scroll to Top