La storia (perché proprio di una storia - e non di una leggenda - si tratta) di Catalina de Erauso, scappata dal convento dov'era stata rinchiusa ed approdata nel Nuovo Mondo, indossata un'identità maschile, nei panni di soldato comune dell'esercito coloniale spagnolo (prima metà del '600), è una storia semplicemente straordinaria che espande i confini del pìcaresco estendendoli fino ad includere riflessioni sull'identità di genere, sull'autodeterminazione, sulla frontiera.
Ne parla l'e-magazine Eurozine, con un lungo articolo di Isabel Hérnandez ("From Spain to the Americas, from the convent to the front: Catalina de Erauso's shifting identities"); ma ne parla anche la stessa Catalina (poi Antonio) de Erauso nella sua autobiografia originale, online (in spagnolo, anzi - visto che siamo in America Latina - in castellano) grazie alla biblioteca digitale andina del Perù (pdf).
"On 19 March 1600, at the age of fifteen and after a heated argument with an older nun, Catalina escapes from a convent administered by her aunt, the place where her father – Miguel de Araujo, a Basque officer and member of one of the traditionally most distinguished families in San Sebastián – left her shortly after she was born. From this moment onwards, and after spending some days hidden in a forest, where she makes all the necessary changes to her physiognomy in order not to be recognized, she renounces her feminine identity and lives the rest of her life pretending to be a man and using male names. A couple of years after her flight, realizing that not even her own mother, whom she on one occasion meets in a church, is able to recognize her, Catalina decides to leave San Sebastián and, after travelling to various Spanish cities and serving several masters, she embarks for the Americas. There, under the name of Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán, she enrols as a soldier for the Spanish army, taking part in numerous war-related activities in Chile where she is awarded the rank of lieutenant. After that, she travels extensively in Chile, Peru and Bolivia where she works in different businesses on an irregular basis without ever losing her ties with the army. During this period, she leads a hectic and troublesome life, constantly taking part in hazardous adventures or brawls, and experiencing all manner of mishaps. Almost eighteen years after arriving in America, Catalina is compelled to declare her identity, an event that rapidly captures the attention of the society of her time and turns her into a celebrity. She takes refuge in a convent in accordance with the orders of the Bishop of Guamanga, and when he receives a letter from Catalina stating that she never professed as a nun, the gates of freedom are opened up to her once more. She decides to return to Spain with a double objective: to receive an official pension due to her military merits as a soldier in the service of the king as well as to request official permission to continue living her life as a man. Thanks to her merits, Catalina achieves both, since King Philip IV rewards her with a generous pension for the services rendered to the Empire, and Pope Urban VIII grants her permission to wear male clothes. Also around that date, in approximately 1624, Catalina is said to have put pen to paper and started writing her autobiography, which remarkably concludes with a reaffirmation of her male identity, and in 1630 she decides to return to America, where she spends the last twenty years of her life in Mexico using the name of Antonio de Erauso".