According to Enrique Favez’s testimony during their trial, they were born Henriette in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1791. After the death of her parents she was placed in the custody of an uncle. Her uncle, in an effort to correct a “troublesome masculine demeanor” arranged for her marriage at age fifteen to an officer in Napoleon’s army. However, soon Favez was a widow. Her husband was killed in battle, and their only child had died shortly after birth. Favez took the opportunity to start again.
Favez moved to Paris to study medicine, taking the name Enrique. After receiving his degree he enlisted in Napoleon’s army as a surgeon. He served through the rest of the Napoleonic Wars, and then immigrated to the Caribbean, settling in Cuba.
In Cuba, he was given license to establish a practice in the community of Baracoa, a remote eastern region of Cuba. It was rural and poor so he would travel great distances to provide healthcare, and to teach reading and writing, to people in the surrounding areas. It was in the town of Tiguabos that he met and fell in love with a woman named Juana de León. They were married on August 11, 1819 at Our Lady of the Assumption in Baracoa.
Their marriage seemed to be happy. Favez was a sought after doctor with a good reputation and the two of them were a popular couple in the community. They had many close friends and hosted parties in their home. One day, a maid entered the bedroom and found Favez asleep on the bed with his shirt unbuttoned. Realizing what she was seeing, she could not contain herself and shared the news, which quickly spread.
Favez was arrested and put on trial in Santiago de Cuba. The list of charges included, “falsification of documents, perjury, incitement to violence, illegal practice of medicine, rape, desecration of the Catholic sacrament of marriage and imposture.” Even though they had been married almost four years, Juana insisted that she had been deceived, calling Favez a “creature” and a “monster.” She admitted to suspecting that their union was made “in an artificial way” (i.e. through the use of an instrument) but she was afraid to come forward. Favez repeatedly denied any deception insisting that Juana knew everything before their marriage. Juana’s legal team demanded that Favez be physically examined. The examination by a panel of experts found Favez to be “effectively a woman.”
Favez denied any wrongdoing, insisting that their actions did not constitute any crime and stated to the contrary, “I have not harmed anyone but rather have done a very considerable good” as a doctor serving the community. Favez explained:
“I have suffered indignities and other afflictions attributable only to the vigor of my naturally strange character, with which nature endowed me, singling me out by not giving me any of the feminine passions and giving me a strong propensity for masculine manners.”
Of their relationship with Juana, Favez stated, “…was by mutual accord and for love.”
The judge sentenced Favez to ten years in prison and exiled them from all Spanish territories. Favez tried to appeal the conviction, attempted suicide and even escape. This relentless fight with the legal system resulted in their being expedited to New Orleans where they had family. They lost their property, medical title, and were forced to pay damages to Juana de León.
Upon arriving in New Orleans it is reported that Favez, on the insistence of family members, joined the Daughters of Charity, however, the Daughters of Charity have no record of Favez ever joining the order. The researcher Julio César González-Pagés also found love letters amongst Favez’s family papers in New Orleans, which appear to be written by Favez to Juana de León. Favez’s death was recorded in New Orleans on October 17, 1856.
*Enrique Favez is also found as Enriqueta, Henriette, Henri and the surname Faber or Fabes
González Pagés, Julio César. Por andar vestida de hombre. Havana: Editorial de la mujer, 2012.
Martínez, Juliana. “Dressed Like a Man?: Of Language, Bodies, and Monsters in the Trial of Enrique/Enriqueta Favez and Its Contemporary Accounts.” Journal of the History of Sexuality Vol. 26, No. 2 (May 2017): 188-206.
Pancrazio, James J. “Reescritura, invención y plagio: Enriqueta Faber y la escritura del travestismo.” La Habana Elegante 56 (2014): 1-10. Web. 23 Sept. 2017.