Rosa Hidalgo and Andrea Ayala c. 1782 Ecuador
gouache on paper
11 x 7 inches

On November 30, 1782, Rosa Hidalgo and Andrea Ayala were arrested and accused of having an “illicit, sodomitical relationship” in Quito, Ecuador.

The complaint was made by Hidalgo’s husband Leonardo Zapata after a very public incident in which Andrea Ayala appeared at his house, dressed in male clothing, yelling, whistling and beckoning for Hidalgo from the street. A fight ensued, resulting in Hidalgo leaving with Ayala and an embarrassed Zapata going to the barrio alcalde to report the event.

Hidalgo and Ayala had been together off and on for over six years, with Hidalgo periodically returning to Zapata to avoid any appearance of an abandoned marriage. Witnesses testified that there was often “physical violence motivated by jealousy between the two women, and that they were also publicly affectionate and known to “carouse together.””

During their confessions, both Hidalgo and Ayala denied that there was anything illicit about their relationship. Ayala denied any gender transgressions, and both explained any violence in their relationship as the result of accident, the fault of men, or jealousy.

Despite witness testimony and the judicial officials’ clear belief in the sodomitical nature of the relationship, authorities could not provide proof due to “penetrational ambiguity.” The pair had spent two months in jail when Hidalgo’s husband recanted his accusations. He requested Hidalgo be set free because he could not afford to pay Tribute on his own (both Zapata and Hidalgo were indigenous and as such they were required to pay Tribute to the Spanish crown). Hidalgo was released into the custody of Zapata, warned of the severity of her crime and threatened with the death penalty should she be accused again. Ayala was similarly threatened and due to her status as a single women she was placed in the Monasterio de la Concepción to “live honestly and in fear of God.”


Archivo Nacional de Ecuador. “Causa criminal seguido de oficio contra Andrea Ayala, y Rosa Hidalgo (o Benalcázar), sindicado del pecado nefando.” Serie Criminales, Caja 99, Expediente 3, (99.3), 2-xii-1782.

Black, Chad Thomas. "Prosecuting Female-Female Sex in Bourbon Quito." In Sexuality and the Unnatural in Colonial Latin America, edited by Tortorici Zeb, 120-40. University of California Press, 2016.


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