Primary Source Analysis 4

Describe life on the frontier. What images come to your minds eye? How does Erauso feel about the war of conquest she takes part in? Why was Erauso quick to defend herself in the gambling house? Why do the king and the pope respond to her in these ways? In Erausos memoir, we see how soldiers from Spain fought wars of conquest in the New World. In two paragraphs, describe life on the frontier as well as the values held by people in Europe and the New World at this time. Play special attention to the qualities Erauso displays: patriotism, personal honor, and the role of violence in fighting for those two things. Memoir of a Basque Lieutenant Nun by Catalina de Erauso trans. by Michele Stepto and Gabriel Stepto (originally published about 1620). After twenty days at sea, we came to the port of Conception, a decent-sized town that goes by the nickname the noble and the loyal, and has its own bishop. Troops were scarce in Chile at the time and our arrival was welcome, and we received immediate orders to disembark. They came from the governor, Alonso de Ribera, conveyed by his secretary, Captain Miguel de Erauso. As soon as I heard the name I was overjoyed, and I knew it was my brother, because while I didnt know him€”indeed, had never laid eyes on him because he left San Sebastian when I was only two€”I had had news of him even if I didnt know his exact whereabouts€¦ [She then travels to Paicabi] What with the swarms of Indians in those parts, we ate, drank, and slept in our armor, until finally the governor, Alonso de Sarabia, arrived with the rest of the armies of Chile. We joined up with them and were quartered in the plains of Valdivia, on open ground, five thousand men, with everything but discomfort in short supply. The Indians sacked Valdivia and took the field. Three or four times before, we had marched out to meet them and engaged them on the field, always gaining the upper hand and butchering them€”but in the last battle reinforcements arrived and it went badly for us, and they killed many of our men, captains, my own lieutenant, and rode off with the company flag. When I saw the flag being carried off I rode after it, with two horsemen at my side, through the midst of a great multitude of Indians, trampling and slashing away and taking some wounds in return. Before long, one of the three of us fell dead, and the two that remained pressed on until we overtook the flag. But then my other companion went down, spitted on a lance. I had taken a bad blow to the leg, but I killed the chief who was carrying the flag, pulled it from his body and spurred my horse on, trampling and killing and slaughtering more men than there are numbers€¦ [She was then promoted to lieutenant] But Chance toyed with me, turning my every scrap of luck into disaster. I had been leading a quiet life in Concepcion until, one day, when I was in the guard camp, I went into a nearby gambling house with a fellow lieutenant. We began to play and the game was going along smoothly, when a small misunderstanding came up and my companion, with plenty of people around to hear it, told me I lied like a cuckold. I drew out my dagger and ran it into his chest. [After that incident, she escapes the law but then encounters another problem in Concepcion.] One of the friends who came to see me during this time was don Juan de Silva, a full lieutenant, who told me he’d had some words with a certain don Francisco de Rojas, a knight of Santiago, and that he had challenged him to a duel for eleven that night. Each man was to bring a second, he said, and he had no one to turn to but myself… The two men arrived, and one of them said, “Don Juan de Silva?” and I could tell by the voice it was don Francisco de Rojas. Don Juan answered, “Here I am!” and they each laid hand to sword and went at each other, while the other man and I stood by. They went on dueling, and after a while I could tell my friend had taken a hit and wasn’t any the better for it. I jumped to his side and the other man jumped to the side of don Francisco, we parried two on two, and before long don Francisco and don Juan fell to the ground. My opponent and I kept fighting, and my … opponent fell to the ground. [She is allowed to leave Concepcion. She returns to Europe later in life and is given a soldiers pension from the Spanish king because of her service to the empire.] I came to Madrid and presented myself before the king, and begged him to reward my many services, which I outlined in a memoir that I placed in the royal hand. The king referred me to the Council of the Indies…They received me and ruled in my favor, granting me, at the king’s suggestion, a pension of eight hundred crowns a year, which is a little less than the sum I had asked for. [She travels to Rome.] I kissed the feet of the Blessed Pope Urban the Eighth, and told him in brief and as well as I could the story of my life and travels, the fact that I was a woman, and that I had kept my virginity. His Holiness seemed amazed to hear such things, and graciously gave me leave to pursue my life in men’s clothing, all the while reminding me it was my duty to lead an honest existence from that day forward, that I must refrain from harming my fellow creatures, and that His commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill, carried with it the vengeance of God for those who transgressed… At one point in the afternoon, I found myself chatting with three cardinals, one of whom, Cardinal Magalon, told me that my only fault was that I was a Spaniard. To this, I replied, “With all due respect, your Holiness, that is my only virtue.”

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