Enriqueta Faber or the Female Doctor
Enriqueta Faber, a Frenchwoman who had lost her husband, a distinguished doctor who had marched with the troops of the Grand Army of Napoleon, had also suffered the immense pain of the death of her daughter when the latter was very young. In order to try to heal her spiritual wounds Enriqueta dedicated herself to the study of medical science, using for this the books which she had inherited from her husband, which formed part of his valuable library.
Wishing to set up in professional medical practice, she donned male clothing, and after having spent some time in Madrid, where she obtained the title of Doctor of Medicine. She then went to Havana where she retook the necessary examination and, in 1819, once in possession of both documents, she established herself in the historical city of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa.
Not long after Dr ‘Enrique’ Faber began exercising the profession of Municipal Doctor (s)he became interested in Srta. Juana de León, who responded to his manifestations and promises of love. The Doctor requested Juana’s hand and her parents, who saw no reason not to agree, arranged the wedding date in a very short time. For this reason it was necessary for Dr Faber to seek, on 23rd July 1819, permission to contract matrimony. This was necessary because he had no parents or relatives in Cuba. Once the information had been recorded, with Luis Albert and Juan Albert as witnesses and written by scrivener Lafita, the Mayor dictated the following resolution: that on 30th July 1819, Enrique Faber, a Roman Catholic of 25 years old, with neither parents nor relatives in the island, there being no inequality between him and his fiancée, was permitted to contract matrimony with Juana de León.
The wedding was celebrated on 11th August of that year, in splendidly luxurious style, attended by the great and good of Baracoa. The priest who performed the ceremony in the Parish Church was Don Phelipe Sáname, from Baracoa, standing in for the parish priest, Vicente Antonio Lores, who was absent at the time. 3 months after the marriage, owing to an indiscretion committed by the servant girl, it was discovered that Dr Faber was of the female sex.
The story was as follows: the servant girl, seeing that the bathroom door was half open (owing to the breeze that was blowing), entered, thinking the room empty and received a considerable shock when, catching her employer unawares, she realised that Dr Faber was a woman. Feeling rather nonplussed, the servant girl tried discreetly to remove herself from the scene, but the Doctor, promising her a splendid sum of money if she would cooperate, asked her to swear before God and the Virgin that she would not tell anyone what she had seen. She swore, but subsequently told one of her aunts, who told other people until the news arrived at the ear of an uncle of Juana who, taking advantage of Dr Faber not being at home, went to see his niece and interrogated her. She was obviously depressed and began to cry, with the words: ‘he is my husband before the Church and before God, and as my doctor he has promised to cure my illness’; Dr Faber had mendaciously told her that she had tuberculosis. She told her uncle that she had not had sexual relations with her husband - he always told her that her health came first. Juana’s uncle went straight to the Judge to denounce the sin committed by the so-called Dr Enrique Faber.
After this, matters became progressively graver for Dr Faber and she decided to leave for Havana in order to achieve an interview with the Bishop Don Juan F. Díaz Espada y Landa. During this painful meeting she confessed the truth, saying that she had married the beautiful Juana de León because she looked so like her daughter. The Bishop said that he could do nothing for her because her case was already in court, but generously promised that he would beg clemency from the governor. Enriqueta returned to Santiago where she was given 18 years confinement in a Convent, but through the Bishop’s influence she was given her liberty on condition that she leave the island and go to Florida.
Once the marriage was annulled, Juana de León was married to Don Eduardo Miguel Chicoy; they had a prosperous home and and a large family.
Versions of the story exist in which Juana left the country and sought out Enriqueta, but in 1917 when the book Narraciones Históricas de Baracoa was written, Eduardo Gaya Chicoy, grandson of Juana and Eduardo, lived in the city and his brother Captain Miguel Gaya Chicoy, who was in the Spanish army, confirmed what is written here.