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Butterflies Will Burn

Butterflies Will Burn
Prosecuting Sodomites in Early Modern Spain and Mexico

Drawing on previously unpublished records of some three hundred sodomy trials conducted in Spain and Mexico between 1561 and 1699, Garza Carvajal examines the sodomy discourses that emerged in Andalucía, seat of Spain's colonial apparatus, and in the viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico), its first and largest American colony.

December 2003
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332 pages | 6 x 9 | 23 b&w photos |

As Spain consolidated its Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, discourses about the perfect Spanish man or "Vir" went hand-in-hand with discourses about another kind of man, one who engaged in the "abominable crime and sin against nature"—sodomy. In both Spain and Mexico, sodomy came to rank second only to heresy as a cause for prosecution, and hundreds of sodomites were tortured, garroted, or burned alive for violating Spanish ideals of manliness. Yet in reality, as Federico Garza Carvajal argues in this groundbreaking book, the prosecution of sodomites had little to do with issues of gender and was much more a concomitant of empire building and the need to justify political and economic domination of subject peoples.

Drawing on previously unpublished records of some three hundred sodomy trials conducted in Spain and Mexico between 1561 and 1699, Garza Carvajal examines the sodomy discourses that emerged in Andalucía, seat of Spain's colonial apparatus, and in the viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico), its first and largest American colony. From these discourses, he convincingly demonstrates that the concept of sodomy (more than the actual practice) was crucial to the Iberian colonizing program. Because sodomy opposed the ideal of "Vir" and the Spanish nationhood with which it was intimately associated, the prosecution of sodomy justified Spain's domination of foreigners (many of whom were represented as sodomites) in the peninsula and of "Indios" in Mexico, a totally subject people depicted as effeminate and prone to sodomitical acts, cannibalism, and inebriation.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Notes on Translation and Transcription
  • Abbreviations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Prologue: Varied Textures
  • Chapter 1. A Total Man and a Total Woman
  • Chapter 2. A Brief History of Early Modern Spain on Sodomie
  • Chapter 3. Mariner, Would You Scratch My Legs?
  • Chapter 4. Cotita and the Antipodas, or How a Cadre of Effeminate Sodomites Infested New Spain with an Endemic Cancer Known as the Abominable Sin contra Natura
  • Epilogue: He Died of a Broken Heart
  • Appendix 1: Natura Armada
  • Appendix 2: Tentando pijas y siesos: Como se confirma el derramamiento de la suciedad
  • Appendix 3: Cotita que es lo mismo que mariquita y sus lindas niñas en la ciudad de México
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Works Cited
  • Index

Federico Garza Carvajal works as a writer and translator in Bratislava, The Slovak Republic. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Amsterdam.


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In 1626, as Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán, a Spanish ensign, sat on a stone cliff in front of a palace in Genoa, a "gallant and well-dressed Italian soldier" sporting a grand wig of many locks, approached him and asked, "Sire, are you a Spaniard?" To which Alonso responded, "Yes." "In that case," mused the Italian soldier, "your lordship must be quite haughty and arrogant, like most Spaniards, although you are not the proud heroes you tend to boast about." "I," retorted Alonso, look upon Spaniards as "quite manly in every respect." "And I," insisted the Italian soldier, "take them all for great lumps of turd." Alonso stood up and cautioned the well-dressed gallant, "Do not, sire, utter such words, for the worst Spaniard is better than the best Italian." The two men drew their swords and began to swashbuckle. The Italian soldier then fell to the ground as "many others, their swords drawn" came to his defense, and Alonso fled.

A couple of years earlier, Alonso, an ardent defender of early modern Spanish bravado, left his native San Sebastián and made his way south to the harbors of Andalusia, lured there by the excitement of "commerce and galleons." Like so many young men before him, Alonso became a grummet. In 1602 he boarded one of those galleons and set sail for the Indias. Alonso Díaz arrived first in Cartagena de Indias, before embarking for Colombia, Panama, Peru, Chile, and Mexico. Along the way, Alonso secured "three slaves—one black, the other, a different color; and one Negra, who sautéed his meals."

In the course of his stay in the Indias, Alonso garnered a number of mercantile and military appointments, having distinguished himself for his business acumen and his sense of bravery. When a group of Araucano Indios in Valdivia, a port in Chile just southeast of Santiago, killed his company's ensign and deprived the company of its standard, Díaz and the other soldiers set off in pursuit of the Indios and the company's banner. When Alonso, in triumphant form and "with particular valor," reached the cacique who had usurped the company's standard, Díaz snatched it from him and killed the Indio. The retrieval of the company's flag, itself tantamount to honor and empire, earned Díaz the military rank of ensign.

Alonso Díaz—a chivalrous defender of empire—indeed represented many of the ideal attributes of the "new, perfect Spanish Vir," or Man. In this chapter, I expand on my use of postmodernist theory and the analytics of textual reading. In doing so, I will attempt to identify the political imperatives that produced discourses about manliness, sodomy, and sodomites in early modern Spain-New Spain.

Fabricating the Perfect Spanish Vir

During the last quarter of the fifteenth century, privilege, based on the "natural hierarchies" of race, class, and religion, extended to the monarchy, to well-positioned theologians, to casuists, magistrates, scriveners, historiographers, in short—the Spanish intelligentsia, who were also referred to as los moralistas and directly participated in the imperial expansion. The literati—men, mostly, in positions of political and economic power—nurtured the textual construct of a new and perfect Spanish Man.

Declarations issued by these writers about manliness formed an "important part of the ideological armature of what has some claims to being the first European nation state." Spain's principal "ideological concern became its self-appointed role as the guardian of universal Christendom and to act in accordance with Christian ethico-political principles" enacted by the theologians and jurists. Although these politicos of privilege and power functioned within the upper realms of the Spanish monarchy and the Catholic Church, I do not imply nor do I believe that this particular class of men constituted a monolith.

Rather, I have grouped their ideological writings together to isolate their discourses about empire, Vir, and sodomie. A more detailed account of their epistemological Vir and its relationship to sodomy is further elaborated in Chapter 2. Here, I wish briefly to emphasize that los moralistas unveiled their discursive fantasies of the new Spanish Man, a concept riddled with sexist, religiously intolerant, and xenophobic visions of power in an effort to buttress Spain's imperial politics aimed to defeat the likes of Moors, Jews, sodomites, and Indios.

Back in 1487, Alonso de Cartagena, bishop of Burgos, had already described specific manly customs with respect to law, women, friendship, war, and love. When I speak of Man in early modern Spain-New Spain, I refer to what theologians of the Thomistic Scholastic termed as Vir. These theologians defined man, "by nature," as a disciple on Earth or a collaborator of God—an idea irefully promulgated by the present-day Opus Dei. Man, according to the scholastic, constituted a continuous process of creation, for it is in him, in his seed, in his semen, that the potential for new and future beings is harbored.

This theological hallucination, lauded by historiographers and literary writers alike, also portrayed the labor of Woman in the procreation process to a naturally purely passive state—comparable to that of a vase, one that sat empty until water was poured in. Naturally then, these theologians believed that the predetermined function of the sexual act was always oriented toward procreation for the continuation of new beings.

The new Spanish Man also possessed impeccable customs and displayed a sense of "gallantry, honor, veneration and worship for his Prince." A "passionate man beyond reproach" always dignified his manner of dress and, as a purveyor of "heroic virtues, religious fervor, and piety," knew always how to repent. Virtues like "humility, charitableness, and a capacity for suffering" were additional characteristics of the ideal Christian man that permeated the mystical poet Antonio Panés' Calidades del varón perfecto and El cavallero perfecto, written by Salas Barbadillo at the end of the sixteenth century. Los moralistas had helped foster these fantastic attributes of the perfect Spanish Man, and Alonso Díaz had readily internalized them.

Caught in the Act

The genteel and gallant Alonso Díaz, who was always well dressed, had studied Latin early in life and could also read and write both Spanish and vascuence. Our resolute and chivalrous fellow not only possessed an accentuated bravado but also displayed his own healthy brand of xenophobia and Catholic zeal. At one point in his life, lost somewhere in the Andes, "tired, barefoot, his feet injured," Alonso "stood next to a tree and cried for the first time in his life." As he stood next to the tree, he "prayed and invoked his salvation in the name of the most holy Virgin Mary and Joseph, her husband." On the following morning, the "heavens above opened up when he saw two Christian men" come before him, one of whom eventually took Díaz to his wife's estate for lodging and repose.

The couple, who had a "Mestiza for a daughter," or the offspring of "a Spaniard and an India," offered the daughter's hand in matrimony to the ensign. But Alonso refused to marry the wealthy merchant's daughter, for in his words, that "poor girl was just too black and too ugly, just like some devils"; in short, she was "contrary to his liking." Instead, Alonso preferred women with "pretty faces." Indeed, our learned fellow Alonso Díaz embodied many attributes of the caballero perfecto—a discursive daydream disseminated by early modern moralists.

Unfortunately, Alonso's otherwise brilliant career began to display shades of tarnish. As he journeyed throughout the Indias, the ensign had already endured at least four platonic relationships with different women and had admittedly killed more than fifteen men, including his only brother, all in defense of his "manly honor" or in defense of the "Spanish nation." The ensign's shenanigans finally caught up with him. In Chile, as in Peru, Alonso had enjoyed an infamous reputation as a reckless, brawling gambler. In 1620, while he was in Peru, local officials arrested him and charged him with murder. Alonso, finding himself in quite a bind, summoned his confessor and simply revealed himself to the priest.

In his defense, Alonso ingeniously argued that a secular court could not pass sentence in his case, for he professed to be "a nun," moreover a "virgin," actually named Catalina de Erauso, and as such, his case fell under ecclesiastical and not secular jurisdiction. Apparently convinced of his story, the secular officials relegated the case to the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities. Thereafter, in the "most discrete manner," the confessor, with the assistance of some comadres, confirmed Alonso's original sexo and Catalina's virginity.

After these requisite examinations, Agustín de Carvajal, bishop of Cuzco, concurred with Alonso's story and upheld the ensign's appeal. Notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical officials also confirmed that Catalina had served as a novice in a Basque convent but had never actually taken her vows as a nun. The bishop likewise confirmed the number of years that Alonso had served "his King and the various valiant deeds he had performed on numerous occasions as well as the number of honorable distinctions" he had received as an ensign. Despite the numerous decorations, the bishop of Cuzco required Catalina to again "dress in a nun's habit," much to Alonso's dismay, and "ordered her return to Spain." Catalina, "dressed as a nun," later disembarked in Cádiz, before the curious gaze of a "multitude of people" drawn there once her story had become public lore.

Months later when the Italian soldier had approached him, Alonso Díaz, dressed in splendid princely regalia, was sitting outside a friend's palace in Genoa, en route to Rome, where he intended to relate his story to Pope Urbano VIII. Previously, Alonso had met King Felipe IV in Madrid, who had rewarded the ensign yet again, this time with a "pension for life" and the "license to dress like a man." In this way, Catalina de Erauso succeeded in evading the ire of the early modern secular courts, and even Inquisitorial tribunals, despite their propensity to eagerly discipline and punish any type of sexual defiance during this epoch.

Erauso did not represent the likes of a bearded lady, the sort painted by Ribera for all to gawk at (Fig. 1.1). Alonso Díaz exploited these notions of man and nature as one possible justification for his alternative gender. Not only had Erauso emulated the perfect Man; she also embodied the early modern Spanish depictions of the perfect Woman. Catalina, the virtuous woman, a virgin, and her devotion to Catholicism constituted, in the eyes of moralists, a woman beyond reproach. Although Catalina de Erauso renounced her identity as woman and other more traditional forms of sexuality, Alonso Díaz supported the gender prescription of virgin for unmarried women.

Virginity, a supposed state of purity, facilitated a closer relationship to God, and this implied an even greater status for early modern Spanish women. Notions of delicacy, tenderness, and, above, all obedience to man—in short, effeminacy—characterized the ideal portrait of an early modern Spanish woman. Catalina, the chaste virgin, a devout Catholic, obedient to man, who thought and acted like one, indeed merited great admiration from the early modern moralists. In his El cortesano, Baltasar de Castiglione, a favorite of Carlos V, depicted the ideal woman as a natural appendix of man (Fig. 1.2).

The Spanish courts had been especially severe with so-called sodomites and other individuals who overstepped neatly defined gender borders or subscribed to other forms of sexual transgressions. But the courts did not prosecute Alonso/Catalina; in fact, quite the opposite. Alonso/Catalina garnered further acceptance and more fame after his/her "coming out of the closet." Why didn't the courts prosecute the gallant Alonso? Was it because Catalina de Erauso assumed the identity of a man, but not just that of any man?

In my effort to trace the epistemological history of manliness depicted in the "autobiographical writings" of Catalina de Erauso, I have juxtaposed her manuscripts with those of the learned fellows referred to above. These texts, in combination with a vast array of archival documents identified in the prologue, will help to explain how Catalina/Alonso and these learned fellows circumvented the rigidity of early modern gender codes to legitimize the existence of Alonso Díaz and to deny that same legitimization to sodomites of any sexo. I have attempted to underscore their possible reasons for having justified or even tolerated some ruptures of gender roles, especially when these ruptures, as in the case of Alonso Díaz, reified notions of the new Spanish Man. I should like to propose that the textual comments attributed to Catalina de Erauso and any other perceptions of Spanish manliness or of sodomy are best understood within the context of an expanding discourse in support of empire, both in the peninsula and in the Indias.

A Universal Monarchy

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Spanish monarchy constituted the largest single political entity in Europe. Until the War of Succession, it controlled more than two thirds of Italy and the whole of Central and South America. With the accession of Carlos V in 1516, Spain acquired a "distinct ideological identity." The Habsburg monarchy began to depict itself as "a self-assured champion (and exporter) of Christian cultural values, the secular arm of the papacy, and the sole guardian of political stability within Europe" (see Fig. 1.3).

Contemporaries referred to the territories over which the Habsburgs ruled as an empire. After 1556 the Spanish monarchy became a "conglomerate of six semi-discrete parts": Castilla y León (which encompassed Andalusia), Aragon, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal (1580-1640), and the Indias. Spanish and non-Spanish political theorists alike perceived the relationship between the kingdom of Aragon and Castilla y León as a component part of what by the early sixteenth century they termed Hispania. Humanists during the reign of Carlos V, like Ginés de Sepúlveda, or early modern political theorists, like the Italian-born Tommaso Campanella, vigorously supported a universal sovereignty or a world empire.

In Italy the notion of a Spanish "universal empire" was discussed as a political solution to impending threats from abroad. The Italian states, in particular those in the south, seemed vulnerable to the aspirations of the Ottoman Empire. The threats posed by the Ottomans on the one hand and Protestantism on the other prompted Campanella to champion a "universal—and by this he understood truly worldwide—Spanish Monarchy," or "Empire." Campanella urged the Castilian crown to exploit its imperial and papal powers, for he considered them as crucial for the implementation of "cultural manipulation and political control."

The true empire should be "a single community, with a single currency," and "the King of Spain had to," as Campanella put it, Hispanizare (Hispanize) his subjects. The political fray believed that the crown "under the pretext of honor" should have forced Neapolitan barons to be fully Hispanized by compelling them to "imitate the habits, customs, and manners of Spain." The Turks, civil disorder, economic decay, and luxury—referred to as the vulgo—had all turned the mind of the people, in the eyes of Campanella. This "mutation of the state" was described by Campanella as "the radical and complete transformation of systems of knowledge and religion," and therefore the world "needed" Spain at the forefront to fulfill God's will and to protect the faith. Furthermore, language, as Antonio de Nebrija reminded Queen Isabel, would "of course function as the prime instrument of Empire." Thus, a new type of Spanish Man, a vision inextricably bound to imperialist ambitions, was required to affront such vulgo.

It was within this context of empire that the early modern writers methodically crafted the discourses of a new Spanish Vir to champion a universal monarchy.

The Discrete Charm of Imperialism

In my attempt to historicize perceptions of early modern Spanish manliness and of sodomy, I have chosen to focus on Spanish imperialism and not on nationalism or gender as the primary category of analysis. Although "nation" functions globally as a component of identity, historical focuses on nationalisms have "frequently suppressed questions of gender and class," not to mention overlooking differences of religion and ethnicity—categories that overlapped with early modern Spanish imperialism. Given the overlap among these categories, it made greater sense to analyze my interrogation of manliness from a "global social analytic" and to focus on an imperialist world system that defines social as "the intersection of the political, the economic and the ideological."

My historical account of the many ways in which the early modern moralists "constructed knowledge" about sodomy in Spain-New Spain exposes links between perceptions of manliness and the power-knowledge nexus of imperialism-colonialism. In Orientalism, Said has suggested that, under political and economic imperatives, late eighteenth-century European imperialism fabricated certain knowledge about the Orient, itself constituted for the exercise of imperial power. This knowledge produced what would henceforth become the Orient, and that phenomenon remains fundamental to understanding one discursive aspect of colonial rule. For the purpose of elucidating how sodomie evolved as one discursive aspect of Spanish colonial rule, I have appropriated Said's definition of "Orientalism" as a style of thought based upon an "ontological and epistemological distinction."

Despite Ahmad's criticisms of Orientalism and his arguments for more historical accounts of imperial social formations and their transformations as the basis for understanding their historicity, Said has expanded our understanding of how colonial rule employed discursive descriptions to help cement its ideological perspectives. I suggest that the discursive aspect of imperial power also applies to early modern Spanish imperialism.

Take for example, the rupture in discourses concerning sexualities that began roughly in conjunction with the proclamation of the 1497 sodomy Pragmática. In making this proclamation, the moralists repudiated Moorish Spain and instead emphasized the cultural value of a post-Columbian Spain—distinctions made as a discursive practice or function that appears to be an "ideological corollary of colonialism." The moralists' discourses of sodomy had provided the Spanish crown with yet another "just cause" for cultural domination.

The discourses of manliness contained in the memoirs of Catalina de Erauso, in moralists' texts, or in the procesos of sodomy trials have made it possible to investigate any links between the politics of the Spanish Empire and perceptions of Vir. Well-articulated hierarchies based on class, ethnicity, religion, and gender formation determined and in some instances "overdetermined" both the politics and the ramifications of early modern manliness. Within the context of the expanding empire, moralists employed a "set of discursive and institutional arrangements" to constitute a "sex/gender system," or a way of negotiating back and forth between "chromosomal sex and social gender."

My focus on Spain's imperial sphere is meant to look beyond bipolar oppositions such as Spain versus New Spain or heterosexual in juxtaposition to homosexual, each constructed as discrete cultural monoliths whereby all that is constituted as exotic or genderlike other becomes homogenized into a "singular cultural formation." The upshot of valorizing Spain, New Spain, or sodomites along such lines freezes or dehistoricizes the global sphere within which struggles between the peninsula and the viceroyalty actually took place. When one emphasizes these politically homogenized formations and all their classes, religions, and ethnicities, they assume a singularized oppositionality, or a site—idealized, simultaneously—of "alterity and authenticity."

It follows then that neither the colonizers nor the colonized constituted homogeneous groups in the early modern period. Instead, early modern peninsular cultures and the cultures of New Spain should be explained "in relation to one another, and as constitutive of each other" in particular moments of communication and contact.

Perceptions of manliness in the early modern period reflected how the textual constructs of gender within the rubric of Spanish imperialist-colonialist history engaged and propelled each other's discursive forms. Within an ever changing imperialist-colonialist formation, both Spain and New Spain nurtured the multiple attributes indicative of early modern Spanish manliness. Although all these categories may initially appear to have represented natural differences based on national origin, one cannot assume that Vir, Spain, and the sodomite constituted "fixed or self-evident categories."

These historically constructed categories coexisted in a perpetual state of redefinition. Ever changing "political and economic imperatives of colonial rule constantly rearticulated their specificity." Thus, discursive motifs such as the "manly Spaniard" or the "effeminate sodomite" emerged as one of Spain's culminating attempts to textualize just causes of cultural domination. Therefore, these cultural formations should be interpreted in relation to "specific practices of ruling, rather than as a function of a generalized colonial condition."38

The manly Spaniard and the effeminate sodomite exposed issues particular to Spain, issues that were termed just causes as Spain's colonial apparatus sought to impose its cultural domination in Spain-New Spain. For early modern Spain, this meant fortifying its construct of Vir in combination with its need to discipline a multilingual, multicultural, supranational labor force—tradesmen for the most part, in the cases consulted for this study.

Beyond Gender

Historians writing about the early modern period cannot hope to further enrich our knowledge of gender specifications in Spain-New Spain on the basis of a bipolar opposition between colonizer and colonized or by situating their work solely within the category of gender. The insistent emphasis on either the bipolar opposition or the discrete category of study valorizes and privileges the categories of nation or gender over other categories of historical analysis.

Recent feminist scholarship has ventured beyond an exclusive analysis of any given sex-gender system to interrogate other issues and categories rather than simply focusing on the history of women and sexuality. This new scholarship has defined gender—itself skewed by class, ethnicity, and religion overlaps—as a "useful category of analysis" for explaining the many ways in which (colonial) societies constructed and represented relations of power. Sangari, Vaid, Bem, and Butler, among others, have proposed that Western societies and cultures, throughout different modernizing epochs, have gendered all aspects of reality.

Thus, gender should function as a mode of interrogating one's efforts at historical reconstruction. However, because other categories of analysis skew the experience of gender, an exclusive focus on gender itself "can never be adequate for a feminist historiography." Alonso Díaz' diatribes about Italians, Indios, and Negras, juxtaposed with his representations of the honorable Spanish man, provide an example of the way in which the ideology of gender intersected with the categories of ethnicity and xenophobia.

Gender formations should not then be "understood in stable or abiding terms" either within or between the borders of nations. Although patriarchy may be universal, its specific structures and embodied effects are certainly not. This insight has challenged the "assumption inherited from nineteenth-century bourgeois feminism that women are naturally or essentially united by their common subordination." The prosecution of sodomites, witnessed in most parts of early modern Europe, also functioned differently across space and time.

A Retrospective of Queer Historiography

With a couple of noted exceptions, some of the recently written so-called gay or queer historiography has remained stagnant within the sex-gender paradigm and has positioned the homopolitan cultures of, say, England, the Netherlands, and France in a demarcated First World and simultaneously located or frozen its brother cultures of Spain, Italy, and Mexico in another world. In his comparative analysis of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century "gender and the homosexual role in modern Western culture," the American-based historian Trumbach concluded:

It is now clear that Western homosexual behaviour has always operated within the terms of two world-wide patterns. Adult men, who married women, had sexual relations with males, who in some cultures were adolescent boys, and who, in others, were adult men who had permanently adopted a transvestite role, situated somewhere between the other two genders. The active adult male partner in these acts maintained his dominant gender status; adolescent boys left behind their passivity at manhood; and only the transvestite male undertook a permanent new gender role as a result of his sexual conduct. Homosexual behaviour in the West was always enacted within an illicit subculture, both before and after 1700. It can also be shown that the appearance of the adult effeminate male as the dominant actor in the subculture occurred only after 1700. It is only after that year that the use of the model of the gay minority, with its subculture and its roles, becomes appropriated in the study of Western societies. It is [my] insistent argument that the minority model was fully established by 1750, at least in north-western Europe, that is, in the Netherlands, France, and England.

To suggest that all "Western homosexual behaviour has always" been or was always this or that, both before and after this or that year, is to argue, in effect, that sodomies originating within social spaces identified as those outside northwestern Europe are not true Western sodomies. In this scenario, the birth of the modern Western homosexual, as the categorical site of opposition, with its indelible mark of constitution and difference as its metatext, devours cultural heterogeneities into a single metaphor.

Trumbach also affirmed that "the appearance of the adult effeminate male as the dominant actor in the subculture occurred only after 1700"; in short, "the model of the gay minority . . . was fully established by 1750, at least in north-western Europe." Furthermore, "in 1750 there was for women who sexually desired women not yet any role parallel to the new role for male sodomites." Trumbach's assessment of "Western homosexual behaviour" reduces all homopolitan cultures to an ideal type and implicitly fully expects one to narrate early modern sodomies commensurate with that privileged type. The ideal type of sodomitical formations assumes that gender sexualities or the category of nation are themselves "trans-historical, supra-national, or self-identical categories."

Bhabha suggests that no "privileged narrative of the nation" nor any "single model could prove adequate" when one attempts to reconstruct the nation's "myriad and contradictory historical forms." The same thought should apply to narrations of (homo)sexualities. Moreover, a number of other characteristics could account for differences in Western sodomitical formations. Mechanisms of social control such as the punishment meted out by Spanish courts could have also contributed to a distinct form of sodomitical culture in early modern Spain-New Spain. Not only did Trumbach freeze early modern sodomies within a First World sphere, but his ethno-sexocentric model conflated the histories of both female and male sodomites.

Trumbach further inflated the histories of northwestern European countries by adding that "from the documentation it is apparent that by the nineteenth century the modern Western system of sexuality and its related gender roles were fully in force in the United States as well as in the most modernising societies of that day, the Netherlands and England." However, "at the end of the eighteenth century it is apparent, however, that Italy, and probably most of southern and central Europe as well, had not adopted the new system." Perhaps this was the case. However, shouldn't one instead ask how, if at all, did sodomies in southern Europe differ from their counterparts in the north? And what, if anything, accounts for the similarities or differences?

To do so is to avoid the conflation of European cultures at any historical juncture and to reject the notion of a privileged narrative of sexuality emanating from any one culture. If, as Bhabha has suggested, one should not advocate a privileged narrative of the nation, then, by extension, one should debunk a privileged narration of homosexuality. "We cannot," as Weeks argues, "understand homosexuality just by studying homosexuality alone," but instead one should go "beyond the confines of homosexuality in particular or sexuality in general" to seek a broader understanding of gender and its intersection with other categories of historical analysis.

The use of gender as a category for cultural analysis can create a number of interpretative obstacles, given the propensity of this category to generate "distinctions and abstractions." If one attempts to resist homogenizing interpretations of sodomies, sodomy prosecutions in Spain-New Spain should be analyzed in relation to one another and not within the context of English or Dutch early modern histories. By doing so, one can compare and contrast the peculiar sodomitical formations of Spain-New Spain with sodomy prosecutions within other European imperial orbits and establish whether or not sodomies functioned differently across time and space.

Halperin, in his work on the history of homosexuality, described sexuality as "culturally variable rather than a timeless, immutable essence." He too rejected the notion that the sexual nomenclatures of the contemporary West functioned as "transcultural, and trans-historical terms, equally applicable to every culture and period." For Halperin, the forms of what might appear to be similar sexual practices in different countries of the West "did not travel well from one historical moment to another."

However, Halperin also acknowledged that "the distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality, far from being a fixed and immutable form of some universal syntax of sexual desire, can be understood as a particular conceptual turn in thinking about sex and desire." That occurred in certain sectors of northern and northwestern European society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Depicting the "West's" history of sexuality by valorizing "north-western European" models borders on an ethno-sexocentrism that can sometimes lead to broad generalizations about early modern sodomitical formations. However, as the findings of this study will demonstrate, this "conceptual turn in thinking about sex" is not limited to the "modernising societies of north-western Europe, France, the Netherlands, and certainly England" but was also present in Spain-New Spain—albeit in different forms.

Historicized Man

The prosecution of sodomites in Spain-New Spain reflected "inherently intertwined notions of imperial rule." Perceptions of manliness functioned as one locus within the imperial realm for disseminating power in early modern Spain-New Spain. In this sense, perceptions of manliness—just one dimension of Spanish imperial politics—revealed "the multiple axes along which power was exercised either among or with the colonisers and the colonised as well as between colonisers and colonised."

But the "focus on the imperial social formation points not only to the intersection of the imperial with the hierarchical categories of race, class, religion, gender and sexuality, but also to the essentially disproportionate and contradictory nature of that intersection."57 In Spain-New Spain, these masked hierarchies overdetermined the gendered notions of manliness. Thus, early modern discourses of manliness functioned as an overdetermined context for the concept of effeminacy and revealed one indication of the unevenness in the intersection of metropolitan and colonial contexts.

My discussion of the evolving perceptions of manliness presented in the next three chapters will point to how this uneven and oftentimes contradictory rhetoric manifested itself within the context of Spanish imperial history. Throughout my discussion of Spanish manliness and sodomy prosecutions, I have attempted not to privilege gender or any one of the other categories of historical analysis. In the sodomy cases prosecuted in Andalusia, I shall highlight xenophobic politics and the codification of sodomy as a crime and a sin against nature as the primary contexts for issues of manliness. Early modern moralists described men of other "nationalities" as the complete polar opposite to the idyllic Spanish Vir: "by nature" physically and intellectually inferior, perverted, vile or filthy, lascivious and languorous.

The Mexican sodomy cases prosecuted between 1657 and 1658 instead exposed gender identities in terms of class and ethnicity as the important contexts. The elaboration of the promiscuous sexual appetites of the Indios intersected in complex ways with the elaboration of distinct and self-restrained sexual mores of Spaniards. In an apparent contradiction of rhetoric, early modern moralists nevertheless associated sodomitical practices in the peninsula with the favored manly, or virile, fellows rather than with an effeminate sodomite, the object of colonial derision. The moralists' focus on effeminacy to distinguish the Mexico City sodomite from the sexually virile peninsular sodomite exposed the contradictions of a discourse that attempted to link sodomitical practices with a distinct and distant homopolitan persona defined in terms of "effeminacy and lacking of manly virility."

In seventeenth-century Mexico, colonial officials displayed a particular sense of repulsion for the effeminate sodomite, a phenomenon often infused with images of anthropophagy, human sacrifices, the diabolical, cancer—all characteristics conspicuously absent in textual references to sodomy prosecutions in the peninsula. Whether the colonial authorities described effeminate sodomites in terms of social, economic, or scientific factors such as cancer, widespread disease, and contamination, the emphasis was inevitably on degradation and the diabolical. The popularity of notions of disease, embodied in the concept of effeminate sodomite, does indeed illustrate the essentially interactive process in the deployment of the discursive mechanisms of colonial rule. The disregard of multiple attributes of colonial effeminacy results in neglecting historical analysis of colonial contradictions.

The articulation and rearticulation of sodomy, based on religious or ethnic differences, constantly responded to specific changes in Spain-New Spain that could help explain differences in the perceptions of the peninsular sodomite with respect to his effeminate counterpart in the viceroyalty. Spain fostered the idea of the effeminate sodomite in the Indias primarily in response to its own decaying political and economic domination. Immediately after its occupation of Mexico in the early sixteenth century, notions of effeminacy and passivity had loosely characterized all the inhabitants of the Indias. However, by the mid-seventeenth century, effeminacy evolved from a loosely defined attribute associated with the entire population of New Spain to an attribute associated with the Mexican sodomite.

Colonial stereotypes of effeminacy also evolved in the context of an "ambivalence" that results from the simultaneous identification with and alienation from the colonial other in the formation of the colonial subject. As such, models of the colonial subject based on supposedly universal gender dynamics of identity formation do not offer a satisfactory context for the discursive aspect of colonial effeminacy, given that different historical developments overdetermined this construct. The recurring shifts in the textual constructs of, say, a sodomite or an effeminate one reflected the way in which economic underpinnings undermined the privileges enjoyed by colonial authorities in Spain-New Spain and the political challenge posed by the so-called sodomites.

Unlike the courts that prosecuted sodomy cases in the peninsula, His Majesty's High Court in Mexico City actively pursued and prosecuted effeminate sodomites, men who purportedly "dressed like women" and "wallowed" in the nefarious crime and sin contra natura. Although the cross-dressed mestizas' form of self-representation, in addition to the many "parties they hosted acting like women," might have appeared as a "challenge to specific colonial policies," one does well to ask whether or not these so-called effeminate sodomites actually subverted gender forms by assuming these new identities. How subversive can one consider cross-dressed mestizas or Alonso Díaz, for that matter, to be, when these men actually reinforced Spanish gender forms along ethnic and class distinctions?

Chatterjee and Pandey have labeled these political anomalies and the struggle for legitimacy in one's own culture as the paradox of subalternity. Or, more succinctly, as Sarkar has proposed, the self-perception of effeminacy actually constitutes an expression of hegemonic aspirations. The cross-dressed mestizas and Alonso Díaz, then, emerged as products of the contradictions and juxtapositions that characterized Spanish colonial culture.

Writing about sodomy prosecutions in Spain-New Spain from this historicized context allows the possibility of interpreting particular cultural nuances that might have influenced notions of sex and gender evident in the peninsula and in the viceroyalty. In doing so, historians can distance themselves from writing about discrete Western perceptions of sodomy without any reference at all to early modern Spain's suprapolitical project and its relationship to sodomies.

A more historicized approach aimed at an explaining sodomy prosecutions—their intertwinement situated within an evolving imperial formation in early modern Spain-New Spain—thus implies a closer reading of more traditional interpretations of both Spanish manliness and Mexican sexual norms oftentimes described as mutually exclusive categories of inquiry. Although many studies have broadened our understanding of same-sex sexual norms, some of the recent gender historiography about Spain-New Spain has demonstrated a hesitancy to reconceptualize the definition of early modern manliness within the context of Spain's imperial formation.

The refusal to contextualize issues of gender within the broader category of imperialism-colonialism has resulted in many a "redundant copula." This hesitancy has skewed important contributions to the understanding of sodomy prosecutions in New Spain like Gruzinski's "Las cenizas del deseo," Trexler's Sex and Conquest, or Lavrín's work on sexuality because of their predominately "indigenous" or "peninsular" frames of references. Murray's totalizing narrative, Latin American Male Homosexualities, fared considerably worse.

Likewise, Novo's preoccupation with the macabre obfuscated the complexities of the colonial institutions as mechanisms of social control that fueled sodomy prosecutions in New Spain. In his 1960s' Las locas, el sexo, y los burdeles, a historicoliterary account of homosexuality in Mexico since the arrival of Hernán Cortés, Novo narrated and in some instances concocted the most sensational aspects of the 1657-1658 sodomy trials in Mexico City. Unfortunately, he ignored any links between the politics of empire and perceptions of manliness.

Back in 1986, Gruzinski used the same archival texts in his seminal article titled "Las cenizas del deseo," the only other publication to date related to sodomy prosecutions in early modern Mexico. However, even Gruzinski's otherwise excellent analysis of these sodomy trials, explained in part as a logical consequence of some neatly described Spanish mentalité, overlooks other political factors that might have overdetermined gender formations in Spain-New Spain.

My emphasis on the politics, the textual construction of early modern manliness, and the prosecution of sodomites, as one constitutive principle of imperialism, differs from that of these other works. Unlike these writers, my focal point is on the historical specificity of Spanish manliness rather than on broad historical generalizations about the gendering of the Indias as female and the feminization of the colonized. An adherence to historical specificity allows for a more adequate discussion of the historical events that produced the effeminate sodomite and rejects any line of continuity between Popol Vuh and early modern New Spain to help explain away gender formations.

In summation, the focus on Spanish perceptions of manliness, as the site for analyzing the relationship between gender formations and power, has permitted me to attempt a different understanding of how ideology molded these categories in Spain-New Spain. Consequently, I reconceptualize a more traditional historiography by extending the "exclusive national frame of reference to recognise its location in a larger imperial social formation."

Alonso Díaz, a Carefully Concocted Episteme

Colonizers seldom held power unilaterally in colonial Spain or Mexico. The production of colonial knowledge always entailed a "two-way process, mediated out of the contestation and collaboration" between different classes. The appeal of the early modern politics of manliness was symptomatic of the efforts made by the moralists on the one hand and by Alonso Díaz on the other to establish their own hegemony in colonial society.

Alonso Díaz emulated the perfect man in an epoch fraudulently depicted by triumphant histories as Spain's Golden Era, idyllic for some, gilded for others. In what reads more like a propaganda speech for the present-day Partido Nationalista Vasco (PNV) rather than a reference to seventeenth-century Spain, Vallbona wrote:

Those were days when adventures, wars of conquest, colonization and fame had all been reserved for men. Those who are not familiarized with the world of the Basques are surprised that Catalina lived on the margins of all conventional norms without an encounter with the Inquisition. In order to better understand that impetuous/anxious spirit and her heroics one must take into account her Basque origins. On the one hand, the Basques have distinguished themselves for their individualism, adventurous spirit, valor, and the self-conscience of their strength as an ethnic group. The prestigious role played by the woman in Basque culture is one worth remembering since recent studies have revealed the matriarchal character of said society.

Perhaps, as the xenophobic and extreme-right leader of the PNV, Xabier Arzalluz, often salivates, "all Basques are genetically different from other human beings." However, neither Catalina nor Alonso evoked their Basque origins as a precursor to their alternative forms of dressing and living. Catalina de Erauso cherished notions of manly honor, the Spanish nation, and a defense of empire.

Catalina's parents abandoned her at the age of four in a Basque convent, where they fully expected her to undergo her novitiate. Catalina became "displeased with that enclosed life" characteristic of so many nunneries. And so, our future ensign, a native of San Sebastián, fled the convent at the age of fifteen, in part as a result of her discontent and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her aunt, the prioress of the convent. En route to Andalusia, Erauso cut her hair and confected the apparel of a man from the remnants of her forgone habit.

Alonso Díaz spent fifteen of his nineteen years abroad at war in the provinces of Chile, without anyone suspecting or discovering his other identity until his misfortunes in Peru. Because Erauso dressed, acted, and worked like a man, others around him likened the beardless Alonso Díaz to a eunuch. As a soldier in Chile who had fought in many campaigns, the "valiant and honorable ensign had always punctually complied with the orders dictated by any of the four different captains" he had served. Together, the men had "caused great destruction of the enemy in their many battles against the Indios."

In 1624, shortly after arriving in Spain, the thirty-three-year-old Catalina de Erauso informed Felipe IV:

Although prohibited for a woman to dress in man's apparel, but since this has already occurred, and having worn this apparel for so many years and with so much valor in continuous warfare, it would be just for His Majesty to provide her with, about 500 pesos of rent for life, at the rate of eight reales per peso, a pension dignified of her service to the crown. . . . His Majesty should also have to decide if it best served his interests for her to dress like a woman, however, His Majesty should know that she has no inclination to change or modify her current habit of dress, which is like a man.

Erauso's monetary request amounted to some four thousand reales annually, or the purchasing power to hire between ten and thirteen laborers every day for one year. A hefty sum, no doubt, given that a common laborer in seventeenth-century Mexico earned just a little over one real per day. In her petition to Felipe IV, dated March 1624, Catalina de Erauso indicated that she had departed for Las Indias "nineteen years earlier" and assumed the identity of a Spanish man. She did so "not for an evil purpose," revolution, or indulging in sexual license but only to fulfill her "natural inclination for arms" all "in defense of the Catholic faith and service to His Majesty the King of Spain."

In support of Erauso's petition, Don Luis de Céspedes Xeria, a captain general and the governor of Paraguay wrote a letter of reference addressed to His Majesty's Council. The captain general had known Alonso Díaz, who "dressed like a man without anybody discovering otherwise" for "more than eighteen years or ever since the time he had joined the ranks of his other soldiers." The honorable ensign had always acted like "a man of very much valor."

Francisco Pérez de Navarrete, a captain of the Spanish Infantry, stated that he had always witnessed "her" act like a "good soldier who always followed orders." "We took him for a man for he always demonstrated courage," admitted Navarrete. Not until 1623 in Lima had Navarrete seen Antonio in "women's apparel," for then Catalina had unmasked herself. The upshot of this "very notorious thing," concluded Navarrete, was that "she became known as la monja de Chile."

Erauso eventually met Felipe IV in August 1625 when she personally met with him to discuss her petition. Furthermore, on 19 February 1626 the Royal Council of the Indies in Madrid recommended that Felipe IV grant Catalina de Erauso a yearly pension of "500 pesos at the rate of eight reales per peso." The ministers also asked the king to rule whether or not, and in the "best interest of the Crown," Catalina should "change her habit of dress." The king's royal edict of 23 April 1626 indeed granted Catalina de Erauso a pension of 500 pesos per year for life and simply did not stipulate any preference about dress for the ensign.

After meeting Felipe IV, Alonso Díaz left Spain for Rome to meet Pope Urbano VIII. Alonso embarked on a ship commanded by an entire lot of French mariners. The crew spent the entire journey conversing with one another. At one point early in the journey, one French soldier commented that it "behooved the Spanish Monarchy to arrive at a peace settlement with France." Alonso Díaz, the "lone Spaniard amidst so many Frenchmen" on board the ship "once again demonstrated great courage having overlooked the notorious danger he had exposed himself to." Alonso declared, "You have said enough and you have allowed passion and emotions to overcome your sensibilities,"84 echoing the second Scholastic's sexualization of reason as a manly attribute and emotion and passion as characteristics of womanly functions.

In Rome, Alonso Díaz dressed in "proper gentleman's apparel," appeared before Pope Urbano VIII, kissed his feet, and briefly related "the story of her life, her adventures, her sex, and her virginity" to the Holy Father. However "strange" the related escapades might have seemed to Urbano, the "affable Pope," nonetheless, granted Catalina de Erauso a "license that allowed her to continue dressing like a man for life." The pontiff admonished Alonso to remain "fearful of God and his conscience" and to live a life of "honesty, void of vengeance or injuring another."

"On 5 June 1626," wrote Pedro Valle Peregrino, "Catalina de Erauso, while in Rome, came to my house for the first time." Valle Peregrino described Catalina as "large in stature and somewhat bulky for a woman although she had all the appearance of a man." The "flat-chested" ensign had "dried up her breasts with some, I don't know what kind of remedy, a sort of jell, given to her by some Italian at a very young age," recalled Valle Peregrino. Catalina had "spread the gel on her breasts," and "although it had caused her great pain," it had not produced "any other harmful effects other than the drying up of the breasts."

His "head held low," the ensign "looked somewhat tattered." Valle Peregrino attributed this condition "more to his life as a valiant soldier rather than to having led the life of a courtesan or experienced the strains of amorous encounters." Valle Peregrino noticed that, although "not ugly, but not beautiful," her face "appeared somewhat badly treated, but not of much age." The ensign sported "short black hair, with a little bit of a foretop, just like a man, in true fashion of the day." Alonso Díaz "dressed like a Spanish gentleman, shiny sword [and all]," revealing his womanly side "only in how she moved her hands, despite their bulky, meaty, and robust appearance." In effect, the ensign "looked more like a eunuch than a woman."

Alonso Díaz spent the next month in Rome as the guest of princes and the most genteel men of Roman society. The Roman Senate named him an honorary citizen of Rome, and they celebrated the ceremony in the Capilla di San Pedro, attended by many cardinals. After the ceremony, at a reception hosted in his honor, Alonso suddenly found himself in the presence of three cardinals.

Cardinal Magallón turned to Alonso and stated, "Your only defect is that you are a Spaniard." "My illustrious Lord," politely offered Alonso, "I believe it is the only good thing I do possess." Catalina de Erauso, alias Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzman, a total Man and a total Woman, had realized the zenith of a soldier's career.

Having left behind the notoriety and commotion he had caused in Rome, Alonso Díaz made his way to Naples before heading back to Spain. One day, as Alonso walked around the quay in Naples, "the laughter and guffaws of two beautiful courtesan dames, who sauntered about in the company of two young men, drew his attention." The dames stared at Alonso. Alonso stared back at the dames, one of whom asked, "Señora Catalina, have you lost the way?" Alonso responded, "Señora puta, how would you like one hundred thumps on the scruff of your neck and a hundred slashes to any man who tries to defend you?" The courtesans and the young men all very quietly slipped away.

Alonso Díaz eventually returned to Mexico. On 12 July 1628, Felipe IV instructed the ministers of the Casa de la Contratación in Seville to afford the "Alférez doña Catalina de Erauso" passage to New Spain without requesting any information from her whatsoever. In 1630, as the ensign waited to depart for the Indias, "she sat in the Cathedral of Sevilla." Later, Alonso Díaz posed for a portrait painted by Francisco de Pacheco (Fig. 1.4).

Immortalized for centuries to come, on 21 July 1630 Alonso—by then under the new pseudonym of Antonio de Erauso—along with another 160 passengers, set sail for New Spain under the command of General Miguel de Echazarreta.



“Garza Carvajal’s fascinating and thought-provoking book effectively analyzes the connections between masculinity and the discourse surrounding sodomy in early modern Spain and colonial Mexico. . . . This book is extraordinary, and I strongly recommend it.”
Peter Sigal, Associate Professor of History, California State University, Los Angeles


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