DOOMED STRUGGLE OF CAMILA O’GORMAN
FAMILY,CHURCH & STATE IN XIX CENTURY
O’GORMAN died on the 18 of August 1848 in Santos Lugares,
a paltry prison town in the northwest of Buenos Aires province.
with the sad reputation of being the headquarters of repression
of the ROSAS government. She was shot by firing squad even
though she was eight months pregnant. As a last gesture
of Christian charity, she was given holy water to drink
so her baby would go to heaven, and a chair to sit in front
of her executors. She was 20 years old. Her crime had been
to love too much in the wrong time and in the worst ace.
murder was recorded as the most atrocious and unlawful act
in a century where murders abounded and laws were disregarded,
to begin with, by the government her death helped bring
down. The pressure of the 1, hypocritical society Camila
had been raised in and the fanaticism of an unbending father
were instrumental in deciding her fate. Thus the sweet an(l
beautiful young lady became a pawn in a dangerous political
game she had nothing to do with. as well as the exemplary
token in a morality play that was as shameful as it was
story is romantic as the novels of that age, only painfully
true: the background. lacerating and convoluted as the politics
of t hose times. Camila genealogy is Irish, and she shows
in her paternal personality the passion, zeal, charm and
determination that are characteristic of Hibernian. But
she lived in the River Plate provinces in the early XIX
century, a land torn by internal strife, fratricidal fighting
and disrespect for the basic tenants of civilised life.
suave beauty and cultivated manners. her ladylike education
and naturally kind disposition were totally at odds with
the patent vulgarity and daily brutality of Buenos Aires.
She belonged in a land of peace where love and individual
rights are respected, but she was doomed to live in a dusty,
forsaken town whose main square was dotted with the spiked
heads of the Dictator’s enemies.
of with love songs, her windows were filled with the brutal
cries of the drunken secret police roaming the streets;
instead of enjoying evening walks by the riverside, she
had to rush home for fear of not making the strict curfew.
She ran away looking for peace only to find doom in the
hands of a distant relative she had not seen for years—
to round off the irony of fate, her "informer"
was not only Irish but a priest as well.
Irish Catholic Church. dominated by the formidable figure
of Father Fahy who for years had been instrumental in the
immigration of his people into Argentina, demanded an exemplary
punishment for the wayward daughter, that was also giving
the industrious and well— regarded community a bad name.(1)
SARSFIELD, also an Irish descendant, provided the legal
background to shoot a pregnant woman and her priest lover.
This is the fearful TRINITY that sealed the fate of Camila
O’Gorman: family, church and state.
thus, ladies and gentlemen . does the
tragedy unfold .
ONE: THE SETTING AND THE PLAYERS
O’GORMAN was born in 1828 in the middle of a civil war between
warring factions in the River Plate, the result of post
colonial misrule and rivalry.
when Camila was 7 years old, the government was seized by
popular demand by a wealthy landowner from Buenos Aires
province- still today the richest in Argentina— from where
all orders were issued. His name was Juan Manuel de Rosas
and his dictatorship, invested with absolute powers by a
plebiscite, lasted until his defeat in the battle of Caesars
in 1852, after which he sought refuge in England arriving
first to an Irish port(2). 1852 was the year when we Argentines,
at last. could sit down to write a national constitution.
are even today deeply divided about the merits- or lack
thereof— of this man who so typified the ruthlessness of
tyrants South America is so known for; however, for all
those who uphold the individual and collective liberties
so many Europeans and North Americans were fighting for
in those days, Ross is nothing short of a thug who resorted
to terror and torture to impose his ways and crush his opponents.
fiefdom was a loose bunch of semiwild provinces, ruled in
their turn by other local "caudillos" (strongmen)
who backed Rosas because they considered him one of their
own— a rural leader who had managed to supersede the city
politicians with their wily ways and European leanings,
to set up a truly national government.
personality and looks of this man are a whole story in themselves:
he was short and agile, handsome and very cunning, a consummate
horserider and wealthy landowner and cattlebreeder who knew
how to deal with the gauchos that followed him massively.
But he did not fit the Latin physique du rol at all being
blond and blue eyed, which charmed the city ladies even
more. . . This is a fact: Rosas was popular among the women
of a colonial society that admired macho men who got what
they wanted against all odds.(3)
over power with "extraordinary faculties" in 1835.
and commanded the capital city a virtual de facto king.
He set up a reign of terror among his detractors who fled
across the River Plate to URUGUAY. From there his enemies
began a press campaign to expose the ruthlessness and repression
that characterised his daily dealings.
counteracted as expected by setting up an extremely effective
spy, informer and abduction system called LA MAZORCA which
means " a head of Indian corn" (after
their identifying symbol) and when pronounced made a horrifying
pun on ‘mas horca" ("more hanging")(4). The
people of Buenos Aires had to wear the crimson colour that
identified the ruling party; curfew regulations were very
strict; the main square was dotted with the spiked heads
of government opponents; kidnappings in the dead of night:
censorship in school programs, the press and entertainment;
and male parental domination in every home to reproduce
the asphyxiating atmosphere without... This was the setting
in which our actors moved: the powerful and influential
were these people?...
FLIES & RED TAPE
O’GORMAN arrived in the River Plate in 1777 in Viceroy Coevals’
expedition, and soon made himself popular among the ailing
members of the upper class with his European diplomas, and
background as physician to the court of Charles III. He
was born in Ennis, Co.Clare, studied medicine in Paris and
Madrid, and secured favours and honours through his friendship
with Count O’Reilly, an Irish favourite of the King(5).
days the sanitary conditions of Buenos Aires were non existent.
as dead animals were left to rot in the open that swarmed
with flies and other insects(6); as a result lethal diseases
were commonplace. By 1788 Dr.O’Gorman had been appointed
Surgeon General and organised the primitive hospitals cared
for by religious orders. When epidemics of cholera and yellow
fever hit the town he created new hospitals. He reorganised
the School of Medicine and legalised the system of medical
practice to do away with quacks. He imposed autopsies and
vaccination for devastating diseases such as smallpox. He
died a single and much honoured man in 1819.
Dr. O’Gorman was held in high regard for his knowledge and
work, his nephew THOMAS was operating just as successfully
in other areas. He had left Ennis for Dublin, sailed to
the Indian Ocean where he traded, and married a beautiful
lady of French origin in Mauritius. After arriving in the
River Plate in May 1797 from Montevideo he embarked in various
ventures that would soon make him a rich man: slave trade,
saltmeat and dye industries, sugar and indigo plantations
evidence of his introducing American cloth in neutral ships
as contraband in the year 1800, while travelling to Chile,
Peru and Brazil. He became a spy for the British government
"Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">There’s
evidence of his introducing American cloth in neutral ships
as contraband in the year 1800, while travelling to Chile,
Peru and Brazil. He became a spy for the British government
as of 1804. His mission was to find out among the leading
circles of Buenos Aires about the weak defence points of
the city, and the willingness of its unhappy inhabitants
to change masters for economic concessions. His information
facilitated the first British invasion in 1806 led by another
Irishman William Carr Beresford. Incidentally, several Irish
officers and soldiers decided to change sides and join the
"gaucho" soldierly(7). There is also evidence
of the 14 year—old Rosas fighting against the invaders(8)
beautiful Mistress O’Gorman was conversing in French with.
the future Viceroy, fellow Frenchman Liniers, who would
later expel the British. When her husband’s honeymoon with
the invaders came to an abrupt end and he had to seek refuge
in a British ship, Camila’s grandmother stayed in Buenos
Aires and carried on her affair with the leading politician,
scandalising the straitlaced colonial society like her granddaughter
would do not many years later. She died in 1847, the year
before her granddaughter was shot, after being exiled in
Rio and allowed to return to Buenos Aires to live outside
the city limits.(9)
THE NAME OF THE FATHER
because his family, and specially his mother, had been so
much talked about for their morals and eventful lives, ADOLFO
O’GORMAN, Camila’s father, was a very strict man obsessed
with religion, morality and honour.
one of the two sons of the O’Gorman couple, and had married
a high class lady of Spanish origin whose family had come
to the River Plate in the XVII century who had given him
6 children, Camila being the next to last.
was born in 1828 and as fate would have it, two of her brothers
became one a priest, and the other a police chief and founder
of the Police Academy. Her childhood and adolescence were
marked by violent political events while the capital quivered
under the Rosist yoke.
and in small numbers, the people from her ethnic background
had been coming to the River Plate in search of land and
freedom to settle the vast fertile pampas, where breeding
sheep was so easy and cheap. The Irish community was small
yet but growing during the l830's. and with a reputation
for being industrious, law—abiding citizens.
the Irish had been establishing a name for themselves in
the Spanish—speaking continent by holding the post of Viceroys
in Mexico, Peru and Chile "although Spanish law forbade
such office to any but Spaniards born" (10). Chile
had an Irish national hero also in Bernardo O’Higgins while
Argentina’s liberator had had John Thomond O’Brien from
Co.Wicklow as his aide—dc—camp, a fosterer of Irish immigration
to his adopted land.
O’Connell had sent his young son Morgan to fight in the
War of Independence, where it was possible to find his countrymen
serving on both sides as " the Spanish
soldier regarded his Irish comrade—in-arms as a brother.
[The Irish always had special privileges in Spain. Irish
troops were considered native troops. Later Philip V placed
all the Irish in Spain on an equal footing with Spaniards,
giving them equal rights as citizens"(11).
to the Revolution of 1810 we find the names of Dillon (who
opened the first brewery), O’Gorman, Lynch and French among
the city merchants. Since the British had opened a commercial
bureau in Buenos Aires in 1811. the wealthy Irish had cooperated
in the burgeoning wool and meat trade with, for example
the United States, to feed the slave population. The O’Gormans
with their money, position and socio-historical background
were very influential and had access to all circles, so
much so that Camila herself was a friend of Rosas’ daughter
Manuelita, and was received at functions in the official
residence of Palermo. Incidentally his mistress lived there
with their five children.
Irish also shared the Catholic religion of their adopted
land, and the O’Gormans attended the Socorro (Our Lady of
Secours church. since they lived nearby in the tree—shaded
residential area favoured by English-speaking people. The
Irish Catholic Church was represented by the heroic priests
that had arrived as of 1826 and took an active part in the
life of the community and in holding it together.
the Reverend Anthony Fahy was appointed chaplain after spending
seven years in the missions of Ohio and Kentucky as from
1832. As irony would have it, he came to replace ailing
Father Patrick O’Gorman who had been sent out from Dublin
in October 1831.
Fahy was a native of Loughrea, Co.Galway, and soon became
the adviser, banker, matchmaker and administrator of the
income of many of his compatriots. His arrival in Argentina
coincides with the increase in the number of Irish and also
with their geographical spread, due to his influence and
to our paper is the fact that he was a friend and ally of
Governor Rosas to the point of writing a letter in response
to an article published in the Dublin Review, defending
the tyrant from the many accusations of his exiled detractors
from across the river in Uruguay( 13).
Fahy was supported in his many charities by Protestant Thomas
Armstrong, a wealthy merchant from Garrycastle linked to
the financial life of Buenos Aires as government Auditor(14).
For example they organised the foundation of the Irish Hospital
in 1848, the year of the lovers’ execution. Both were close
friends of Admiral Brown from Foxford in Co.Mayo, a national
hero. Governor of Buenos Aires in 1826. and one of the Bank
of Buenos Ayres Directors by 1831.
the leading families the O’Gormans shone as hosts (15).
Camila noted for her music talent and her love of poetry.
Taking the Leader’s heed in matters moral, and with his
(in)famous mother still alive, Adolfo O’Gorman instilled
discipline, religiosity and restrain in his however hospitable
and well—reputed household.
MEETING OF TRUE SOULS
Father Uladislao Gutierrez was from a well known family
from Tucuman, the small, orange-blossomed northeastern province
that had hosted the first national Congress, where the Declaration
of Independence had been written down in 1816. During colonial
days, Tucuman had been the door to the Alto Peru, the northern
part of the Viceroyship, the setting of bloody battles,
and also where the national flag had been created.
arrived to Buenos Aires in 1846 on the recommendation of
his uncle, the governor of Tucuman and a federal "caudillo".
When he was assigned to the Socorro church he was only 23
years old. He was introduced to the family by Camila’s brother
Eduardo, who had been his companion at the Seminary.
Adolfo O’Gorman described in his letter to Rosas with ironical
hyperbole as " the most atrocious and
unheard of event in this country", took place in the
night between the 11 and 12 of December of 1847: the young
lovers eloped on horseback and headed north.
however, would play a farewell joke on them: days before
a farewell mass was offered at the Socorro church to Father
Gannon. Admiral Brown’s nephew and the couple’s betrayer
eight months later.
TWO: LOVE IS NOT LABOUR’S LOST
Consider what you first did swear unto
fast, to study, and to see no woman;
treason ‘gainst the kingly state of youth.
can you fast? your stomachs are too young;
abstinence engenders maladies. "
the escape had been carefully planned by the lovers, it
was not one of experienced criminals, and that was why the
reasons given by Father Gutierrez for an "imminent
trip to Quilmes", were hard to believe. (Incidentally,
Quilmes is the place where the British. led by Irishman
Beresford, had landed in 1806). Therefore, strict orders
were given that the couple should be closely watched.
neither the intimidating questions of the Church nor the
repressive control exercised by the government weakened
this man’s need for a fresh breath of air at the side of
his love. On the other hand, the campaign against the Rosist
government organised in Montevideo was progressively showing
signs; therefore, a stricter control over the population
was enforced. During the Rosist government legislation was
consulted in several cases but, when the laws did not satisfy
the dictator’s needs in his aim to have absolute control
over the social body, they were disregarded and unscrupulous
physical violence put in its place.
manages to get two horses and waits for Camila, who according
to plan, was on her way to meet her lover. She also had
to go through the dangers of being arrested not for elopement
-yet- but for not respecting the curfew and disobeying "the
rules". Once both go through these fears, they meet
to share the worst danger of all: getting away from
Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves, Or else we
lose ourselves to keep our oaths".
was the perfect moment for the elopement. Once Camila and
Uladislao were away from the main road, they started on
the planned route: ride straight along the Lujan river but
never enter the city, being common knowledge that Lujan
was, together with Santos Lugares, one of the most popular
centres of espionage and torture. Their aim was to go up
north and reach the provinces of Santa Fe, Corrientes, Salta,
and cross over to Bolivia.
the warrant of arrest had not officially been sent to each
spot of the Santa Federacion, the news starts arriving.
Uladislao and Camila are reported to have been seen on December
12 in Villa Lujan(16) spending the night in the open air,
since at such late hours nobody would dare open the door
to strangers. On the early morning of December 13, one Gualberto
Suarez guided them to the Pilar river, and he left them
there after taking the 55 pesos gratification offered by
the couple. (17)
they headed north. They had taken new identities- Uladislao
was Jose and Camila was Florentina-; but the report not
only included their itinerary, it also mentioned the lovers’
apparent happiness and Camila’s sick look. According to
this report the couple was thought to be heading towards
the province of Santa Fe. Rosas, abreast of the facts, orders
the urgent arrest of the fugitives— Uladislao was to be
sent to a public prison and Camila to a Convent. (Casa
decision is communicated to the governors of all the provinces
and to all the Justices of the Peace, the reason being that
such measures should be taken to "satisfy religion
and the law and to prevent further cases of immorality and
now on and with the consent of the Church all the resources
Rosas can count on are put to his service to capture the
fugitives.(19) One of the last letters received by Rosas
dates from January 22, and is written by Felipe Elortondo
Palacios, Secretary to the local See, in which he
clarifies that he never recommended Father Gutierrez for
the Secours Church, and that since the moment of the elopement,
four months had gone by without any "communication
between them whatsoever".
February and March they manage to cross to Parana, Entre
Rios where they get new identities as Maximo Brandier, a
salesman from the province of Jujuy, and his wife, Valentina
runs with them: they manage to cross the difficult waters,
aware that they have left behind an irreparable mistake,
which would inevitably lead their persecutors on: they have
left their horses by the river before everybody’s eyes,
in order to take the schooner "Rio de Oro"
feeling is more soft and sensible
are the tender horns of cockled snails;
valour, is not Love a Hercules,
.And when Love speaks , the voice of
all the gods
Heaven drowsy with the harmony.
by little difficulties are overcome. Uladislao and Camila
are on their way to freedom. They have spent the longest
two weeks in their lives, walking along the rivers under
clear and stormy nights. avoiding the roads and any contact
with civilisation, always sleeping in the open, only sharing
the lonely darkness with the mosquitoes, enduring the repeated
storms, the cruelty of the blistering sun, the uncertain
itinerary, drinking from the rivers and surviving on hard
their strength fails, and Camila is the first to show signs.
She is visibly weakened and her hands, feet and face show
traces of the implacable harassment of the mosquitoes. Uladislao
now has grown a full beard, and also shows signs of tiredness
and fear. But they cannot stop.
in the city after meetings with governors, after the breaking
of the moral code of bishops and priests, after reading
numerous letters all with the same content— the repudiation
of the scandalous behaviour of the fugitives— Rosas takes
too well that Camila is an open threat to his power. If
she is pardoned then she would be the heroine, and therefore
cause his downfall. Punishment should be exemplary... of
his unquestionable power.
in order to work on this scandalous and immoral challenge
to his authority, he sends his maid and young lover Maria
Eugenia with their five children to the centre of the town,
and he stays in his Palermo residence, exploiting the defence
of a moral code that looks more like resentment than justice.
again the Santa Federaci6n is urged to concentrate on the
criminals and to block all possible routes of escape. The
elopement had not gone by inadvertedly. To some Camila meant
sex and sin, in whose hands the minister of God had inevitably
Father Gutierrez was the one who, by means of "deceitful
spells"(21) had talked the sweet girl into escaping
with him. But the common terror caused by the rage of Governor
Rosas united them in the chase. And while Mr Adolfo 0’ Gorman
claims for "exemplary punishment" and condemns
the incident as "the infamy", Uladislao
and Camila follow their plan and overcome each barrier with
the peace of mind of the loving couple they are.
God sails with them, because the friendly captain of the
"Rio de Oro" takes them to their
new destiny: Goya, province of Corrientes. where they will
be known as two young teachers setting up the first school
in that town.
Aires, the fugitives are thought to have crossed the border,
more especifically Bolivia or Brazil, and to prevent the
scandal from acquiring greater dimensions, Rosas decides
to abandon the persecution and cancel the warrant of arrest.
hypothesis of the lover’s fate is communicated to the O’Gormans,
and silently accepted by Camila’s father, but deeply rejected
by Mrs Joaquina Ximenez Pinto, who insists her daughter
is in hiding in the countryside, and resolves to go to her.
six months spent by the enthusiastic couple in Goya were
the happiest. In March school started and they were overwhelmed
by the large number of students from all the social classes.
As a consequence, because of the growing economic possibilities,
new schools are founded.
from Buenos Aires came with the ships sailing from Corrientes
to Asuncion del Paraguay. The fugitives no longer headed
the news; and since no news is good news Rosas looks calmer,
his power no longer being threatened by an indecent, diabolic
young couple. The accusations have lessened and the story
of the escape has faded.
Camila and Uladislao feel safe, respected and loved. Uladislao
is known for the discipline in his teaching; he is also
the favourite at social gatherings. Camila has grown used
to the fact that Uladislao’s knowledge of History, and his
interpretations of world affairs fill the admiration of
his audiences, be it salesmen or mi1itary
he is very cautious about talking to the local priest and
to the Justice of the Peace, Esteban Perichon, Camila’s
brother. The Justice of the Peace only saw Camila as a baby,
so they are safe but it can still be dangerous: destiny
sends the lovers warning signals, for unknowingly, Perichon,
unaware of the existing family ties, turns into the most
fervent supporter of the young couple, informing them that
the governor of Corrientes wants to sign a document in which
he personally thanks them for their "invaluable contribution
to the growth of the town". Through him Camila and
Uladislao learn that the town is sharing Camila’s pregnancy
with great happiness. The young teachers deserve a celebration
in their honour.
they are more popular, constantly exposed not to the dangers
of the dark nights, the curfew or an uncertain itinerary,
but to the sweet welcoming attitude of a town. They are
— once again — in danger. And to continue with the tragic
circle of fate in Camila's life, the gathering is at
Esteban Perichon’s place — Camila’s relative. They cannot
refuse being the guests; besides, it would be more suspicious...
But they have a plan: in order to avoid long conversations
with the people, they will dance and leave together with
God dances with them... at first for, unfortunately, the
captain of the Rio de Oro schooner, and the
priest Miguel Gannon who inevitably recognised them are
there too. Father Gannon is the one who approaches the couple
when he sees their immediate retreat. Somehow, Uladislao
and Camila beg him not to reveal their identity that night
before such nice people, and to give them some time to leave
the town. Father Gannon shows them some compassion, but
to clean his conscience from any kind of "disobedience",
either to his religion or to his 0’ Gorman friends in Buenos
Aires, he informs the host of the "sad event".
Camila’s fate is once again signed with Irish blood: Father
Gannon-Admiral Brown’s nephew, her distant relative
Perichon - and her own father.
the governor of Corrientes changes from worshipping the
"Brandiers" to murdering them. He gives specific
indications that the couple should not be allowed to leave
the town. The whole operation is taken up, except that now
the aim is not only to know every detail of the elopement,
but who helped them on their way to freedom. Everybody is
a suspect and must submit to endless interrogatories. Control
was now for everyone -and so was punishment.
Camila and Uladislao are not professionals. If they have
gone so far it is because they deserved a little happiness
together. Once they have had some, it was time to endure
the reality that awaited them.
Buenos Aires, Rosas had given strict orders — the fugitives
were to be sent to Rosario, and from there Colonel Vicente
Gonzalez - a sinister character of the Rosist government
— was to turn them over to the Justice of the Peace in San
Nicolas de los Arroyos. From there they are taken to Bs.
As. in separate carriages — as indicated by Foreign Relations
Minister Felipe Arana in his warrant of arrest.
Restorer’s orders had been carried out to the letter, except
for one detail: they never got to Buenos Aires. Instead,
they would be sent
Lugares, also known as Los Santos Lugares de Rosas.(22)
reaching their final destination, Camila writes to her friend
Manuelita Rosas, with the hope that she might talk her father
into "pardoning" the couple. Manuelita replies
to her friend’s letter. promising some help. Parallel to
this —and probably knowing her father’s answer— Manuelita
personally furnishes her friend’s cell in the Convent with
a piano and books. Uladislao is also given the most comfortable
cell in the City Hall’s prison.
story of Camila and Uladislao continues in prison. They
are in separate cells. Friends and enemies of Rosas go beyond
their historical confrontations and are united in qualifying
this event using Mr.Adolfo O'Gorman’s words: "
a scandal never heard of in this country".
For some depending
on the degree of involvement with power - Camila and Gutierrez
were immoral because they had dared to challenge the laws
of the country and of the church; to others, Rosas was responsible
for the elopement, being as "immoral and bloody as
official press supported the governor’s decisions, and for
the first time coincided with the opposition press in the
hands of the exiled, in demanding "severe punishment
for the sinners".
same time, in Montevideo Valentin Alsina, one of Rosas’
most fierce opponents declares that one of the governor’s
nephews had attempted to kidnap a young girl. Another opponent,
Rivera Indarte also attacks the Rosist government by presenting
what was known as " Death Lists" ("Listas
de sangre")— a detailed account of all the
crimes committed by The Restorer. The opponents are actually
claiming for the dictator’s death, although to achieve that
the young lovers have to be sacrificed first. They use the
elopement for their own political benefit, and as a consequence,
Camila and Uladislao progressively lose their individuality
to be turned into the objects of the struggle for power.
once again society is divided. On the one hand are the representatives
of law and order, defending the foundations of their institutions;
and on the other, Camila and Uladislao, refusing to accept
their love as a crime.
law system was non existent, or rather not taken into account,
for Rosas did consult the Criminal Code - which stated that
a pregnant woman should not be murdered until the
baby was born - but disregarded it; and without
any previous trial, or the possibility of being heard at
least, the dictator decreed that both Camila and Uladislao
should be murdered.
the men of law that were consulted, or rather agreed on
the couple’s fate, was Dalmacio Velez Sarsfield, a relative
of the great Irish patriot Gral. Sarsfield, the hero of
the siege of Limerick. It seems inevitable that in this
story Camila’s Irish roots follow her to her death. Her
life is doomed — ironically! — by a fatal trinity of people
of her own blood: her father, the Irish priest Gannon, and
the man of law Velez Sarsfield, who will later be accused
of having been the dictator’s decisive adviser in Camila’s
fate, and in 1869 play an important role in the history
of Argentina by writing the first Civil Code, in which holy
matrimony is imposed following the tradition of XVI century
was a flourishing of new ideas in Europe, and concepts of
human values and freedom of choice were gaining ground.
In spite of the fluent relations Argentina had established
with the Continent, medieval legislations and measures taken
by absolute monarchs were resuscitated in Buenos Aires,
not to be used as guidelines for eventual trials, but to
be imposed as Divine Punishment. That is why it is important
to consider Camila’s statement when interrogated by the
Justice of the Peace in San Nicolas de los Arroyos:
at no time did she show the repentment expected by Rosas.
On the contrary, she very clearly expressed her love
for her husband and under no circumstances was she to accept
to describe her elopement as a crime. Furthermore, she
added that she had insisted on eloping, and not Uladislao,
who had been accused of having kidnapped her.
firm absence of guilt enrages Rosas. That is the reason
why, when his daughter Manuelita once again pleads with
him for them, he replies that in this case more than ever
he needs to show his undisputed power, being the moral values
and sacred religious norms of a whole society at stake.
morning of August 18, according to Rosas’ mandate and the
laws of the church, Father Castellanos, the prison chaplain,
visits Camila’s cell to baptise the baby. The cruel ritual
consisted of making the mother drink holy water and sprinkle
a handful of ashes on her head.
done, Camila and Uladislao are taken to the yard, their
Once they reach the place of their execution and are tied
to chairs in front of their executors with nervous hands
— even the soldiers know that this is not an ordinary execution
— their sentence is finally carried out.
time the brutal ritual of looking at the dead bodies was
disregarded by the soldiers, who in spite of the terror
of punishment for disobedience, looked away from the corpse
of the brave woman.
being placed in the same coffin, Antonino Reyes, who had
served Rosas for 14 years and was his aide— de— camp, secretary,
Sergeant Major, and Chief of Police at Santos Lugares, writes
to the dictator informing him that his orders have been
carried out. Reyes was used to all the brutalities taking
place at the Santos Lugares prison, but he confessed that
Camila’s situation had genuinely moved him.(23)
blood doth not obey an old decree:
cannot cross the cause why we were born;
of all hands must we be forsworn. "(24)
through the documents of the time, analysing the way the
capture was organised, and the consequences of the events,
the interrogatories, the repressive measures in the prisons,
and the tragic end, we may wonder who really were Camila
and Uladislao were no political rivals. Gutierrez had fought
for Rosas in Tucuman in 1842, and Adolfo 0’ Gorman and his
family were very much respected by the Restorer as Federals
and leaders of the community. Surely they were no political
threat. They meant another type of danger; one to which
dictators were not used to; and therefore they would be
punished in the same way as political adversaries — mercilessly
and Uladislao’s brave sense of freedom upset the structured
norms of a society used to obeying through fear. Their only
way of facing the tyrannical power was escaping from a society
which would never understand. They did not give up on their
love to please the Restorer, as was expected in those days.
They never showed signs of repentment, on the contrary their
peaceful minds reflected their clean consciences.
the shooting of the lovers the opposition— who had previously
written endless articles on the "scandal" and
the"need for justice" were now appalled at Camila’s
savage murder. Now they talked of "the young lovers",
"the beautiful girl", and the "repression
of the daily routine of deaths to which society was used,
this ruthless murder had shocked them all; being the young
lovers unconventional "criminals"; and not the
savage members of the opposition. (26)
among the many questions this tragic true story might raise,
there’s one that particularly appals us: why did Rosas shoot
Camila knowing the law stated a pregnant woman could not
be murdered? Was that baby guilty of his parents’ "crime"’?
was, since by being born he would symbolise the testimony
not only of the criminal act, but also the evidence of "disobedience"
of a moral code imposed by a fearful dictator. Therefore
it was necessary to do away with the evidence— In a society
where moral values were imposed and the law was consulted
only if it was convenient, this baby was the result of two
brave individuals who stated very firmly till the very last
minute that the possibility of choosing the way of life
a person wants to live always existed, and always will.
so be it.
Comercia del Plata, published in Montevideo, had intimated
5 of 1848 that the Rosist government was not doing enough
to apprehend the couple. Later on April 27 it indicated
that " foreign governments have asked the criminal
government of the Argentine Confederation for the safety
of the daughters of foreign subjects, that find none to
protect their virtue" Rosa, Jose Maria. Historia
Argentina. Rio de Janeiro, p,75.
The tolerant hospitality of England has seldom been put
to stronger proof than it is at this moment by the arrival
in an Irish port, and probably
ere long to the metropolis, of the late Dictator of Buenos
Ayres". The Times, Monday, April 26, 1852 in
Buenos Aires Herald, 119 Years Anniversary Supplement,
Buenos Aires, September 15, 1995, p.27.
Jose Maria, op.cit., p.91.
Aires Herald 119 Years Anniversary Supplement, p.10.
In his letter to Lord Palmerston of October 14, 1840, John
Henry Mandeville also writes that " The excesses committed
in Buenos Ayres for the gratification of public and private
vengeance have arisen to a height rarely recorded in the
annals of history.
Alberto E. Hamenaje a Miguel Gorman. Buenos Aires,
p.2 y 3.
Buenos Aires vista par via jeros ingleses (Buenos
Gillespie, a prisoner from the first British invasion of
1806 who returned home the following year, described at
length the horrid practise of leaving cattle carcasses in
the open, to rot in the sun after they had been butchered
(p. 17/18). On p.46 Samuel Haig gives an 1817 eyewitness
account of " unappetizing blackish meat being sold
from open carts" in the city.
Mac Laughlin. The forgotten Irish. Irish Roots Quarterly,
1993 No.4, p.6.
Jose Maria, op.cit., pp.6 & 7.
Enrique. .Una Sombra donde suena Camila O'Gorman. Buenos
Aires, 1984, p.84.
& E.T. The English in South America, Buenos
The Irish Digest. "Irish Refugees in Spain",
April 1967. p.86.
Leading Argentine historian Dr.Felix Luna describes the
Restorer of the Law’s attitude toward the Church as: "
handling all ecclesiastical affairs, the naming of bishops,
Papal bulls and documents, as well as watching the religious
orders and priests to detect whether they favored the regime
or not (our translation). Breve Historia de los Argentinos,
Buenos Aires, 1994, p.100.
The Southern Cross. Numero del Centenario, Buenos Aires,
The original was published in La Gaceta Mercantil, Rosas’
government official newspaper, on Nov.8 1849. It is possible
to find it in Murray’s The Story of the Irish in Argentina,
Dublin Review anti Rosas article is said to have
been sponsored by Gral.0’Brien, then Uruguayan consul in
Gaynor, Juan Santos Fr. El Padre Fahy. Buenos Aires,
1971, pp.12 y 13. The
Irish community and Church showed remarkable charity toward
the horror of the Famine. In the years 1847 and 1848 a respectable
sum was sent by Rev.Fahy to the Archbishop of Dublin, collected
both from those living far away in the ‘camp’ and the rich
city dwellers. In his letter to the British Packet of
January 1 1848, Fahy encourages immigration to this rich
and fertile land where the government protects foreigners,
and the natives are proverbially hospitable and generous".
donation from the Irish in the River Plate was also commented
upon in the Dublin Freeman, a few paragraphs appearing
in the same number of the British Packet.
Buenos Aires vista par viajeras ingleses, p.78. It is interesting
to notice that already in 1826 John Miller had described
the educated people of Buenos Aires as having "
a open and festive humor as any of the sons of Erin".
Molina. Una sombra donde suena Camila 0’ Gorman. Seix
Barral. Bs.As.. 1984. p.315. Extract from a letter sent
to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dn Felipe Arana by the
Chief of Police Pascual Echague "that he was Jose clean
shaven, wearing dark trousers and thick jacket , tough boots,
small cap and green glasses, a small suitcase... that she
was known as Florentina,... a light coloured dress... as
well wearing green glasses and a cap ... that both appeared
to be happy, though she seemed rather sick, since during
the ride, she stopped several times to drink from a bottle
inside one of the suitcases..."
According to some documents, which described the act as
" religious theft" Uladislao is said to "have
stolen both money and religious objects from the church,
arid the law should therefore apply capital punishment."
Rosa, Jose Maria op.cit.;p.75. However, this was never proved
to have been a fact.
Letter sent to the Vicar of the Socorro Church, Miguel Garcia
by Rosas. January 17, 1848.
In the documents of the time, Camila 0 Gormari is referred
to as "the innocent young girl", arid Uladislao
Gutierrez as "the blasphemous priest".
some documents the last name may appear as San.
horrible corruption of basic social rules has reached such
an extreme point under the dreadful tyranny of the River
Plate Caligula, that the impious and sacrilegious priests
of Buenos Aires run away with the young daughters of the
best society, without the infamous tyrant adopting any legal
measure against this monstrous immorality." El
Mercurio de Chile, March 3, 1848.
Nazareno Miguel, op. cit., Poder v sexualidad: el caso
de Camila 0’ Gorman. Todo us Historia. Buenos Aires,
no. 281, November, 1990. pp. 14—15. "It was never known
why Rosas changed his mind regarding the lover s final destination.
It is speculated that Santos Lugares was the clear synthesis
of The Restorer’s inhuman policy... where they are isolated
from the entire world and are deprived from any sort of
communication with friends...they have no right to a lawyer,
or to any claim...once being imprisoned in Santos....nobody
got out, unless out of an impulsive whim, typical of overpowerful
dictators, Rosas decided they should be set free."
Nazareno Miguel, op. cit.. Poder y sexualidad: el caso
de Camila 0’ Gorman. Todo es Historia. Buenos Aires,
rio. 281, November 1990. p. 20. "in the trial of December
3 1853, during which Antonino Reyes confesses the Camila—
Gutierrez murder "paralysed him with horror",
he also states that he thought that the news of Camilas
pregnancy might save her, so he wrote to her friend, Manuelita,
thinking that she might intercede before The Restorer. The
letter was not delivered to Manuelita, but to her father,
who in spite of the news of the pregnancy did not show any
sign of withdrawing his former order of shooting the lovers,
and punished Reyes for delaying the sentence."
All epigraphs from William Shakespeare’s LOVE’S LABOUR’S
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