Mary Hays’s Biography of María de Estrada, a Spanish Woman in the American Conquest

  • María Jesús Lorenzo-Modia University of La Coruña
Keywords: american conquest, María de Estrada, Mary Hays, female biography, race


This article focuses on Mary Hays’s entry of María de Estrada in her Female Biography (1803), and how this English writer dealt with issues of gender, race, religion and nation by means of the mere inclusion of Estrada in this collection of women’s biographies. It studies the life of María de Estrada as inscribed in the fruitful transatlantic dialogue between the Iberian metropolis and the American continent at the beginning of the sixteenth century. In the analysis of her ordeal, issues of colonization are intermingled with those of ethnic persecution. De Estrada is believed to have been a Jew suffering difficulties in the Spanish city of Toledo; she had later an additional plight as a foundling girl living with the Gypsies in order to blur her origin, and thus escape ethnic cleansing. Subsequently, her role as an expatriate woman, who would leave her country of origin on board of a ship in the Hernán Cortés Expedition, is also analyzed.


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