© Irish Centre for Migration Studies/Ionad na hImirce 2000







CAMILA 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.

Her 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 false.

Her 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.

Camila’s 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.

Instead 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.

The 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)

Dr.VELEZ 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.

And thus, ladies and gentlemen . does the tragedy unfold .



CAMILA 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.

In 1835, 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.

Historians 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.

His 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.

The 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)

He took 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.

ROSAS 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 O’Gorman clan.

Who were these people?...


MIGUEL 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).

In those 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.

While 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 in Paraguay.

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 "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)

Meanwhile 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)


Perhaps 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.

He was 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.

She 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.

Silently 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.

Already 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.

Daniel 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).

Prior 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.

The 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.

In 1843 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.

Father 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 encouragement.(12)

Pertinent 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).

Reverend 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.

Among 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.



            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.

He had 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.

What 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.

Destiny, 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.




 " Consider what you first did swear unto

To fast, to study, and to see no woman;

Flat treason ‘gainst the kingly state of youth.

Say, can you fast? your stomachs are too young;

And abstinence engenders maladies. "


Though 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.

However, 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.

Uladislao 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 the city.



 " Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves, Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths".

Dusk 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.

Although 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)

Now 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 de Ejercicios).

The 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 disorder."(18)

From 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".

Between 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 Desan.(20)

God 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"




Love’s feeling is more soft and sensible

Than are the tender horns of cockled snails;

For valour, is not Love a Hercules,

...         .And when Love speaks , the voice of all the gods

Make Heaven drowsy with the harmony.


Little 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 biscuit.

Inevitably, 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.

Meanwhile 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 action.

He knows 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.

Ironically, 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.

Once 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 fallen.

To others, 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.

And 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.

In Buenos 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Information 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.

In Goya, 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

Nevertheless, he is very cautious about talking to the local priest and to the Justice of the Peace, Esteban Perichon, Camila’s

grandmother’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.

Now 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 the musicians.

And 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.

At once, 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.

But 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.


From 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.

The 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

to Santos Lugares, also known as Los Santos Lugares de Rosas.(22)

Before 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.

The 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 the criminals".

The 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".

At the 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.

And 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.


The 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.

Among 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 legislations.

There 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.

Camila’s 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.

On the 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.

This done, Camila and Uladislao are taken to the yard, their eyes

covered. 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.

This 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.

After 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)




Young blood doth not obey an old decree:

We cannot cross the cause why we were born;

Therefore of all hands must we be forsworn. "(24)


Going 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 Gutierrez.

Criminals? Political opponents?.

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

Camila 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.

After 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 love".

In spite 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)

And 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"’?

He evidently 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.

And so be it.



1.  El Comercia del Plata, published in Montevideo, had intimated on January 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.

2. " 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.

3. Rosa, Jose Maria, op.cit., p.91.

4. Buenos 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.

5. Laurence, Alberto E. Hamenaje a Miguel Gorman. Buenos Aires, p.2 y 3.

6. In Buenos Aires vista par via jeros ingleses (Buenos Aires,1945) Alexander 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.

7. Guillermo Mac Laughlin. The forgotten Irish. Irish Roots Quarterly, 1993 No.4, p.6.

8. Rosa, Jose Maria, op.cit., pp.6 & 7.

9.  Molina, Enrique. .Una Sombra donde suena Camila O'Gorman. Buenos Aires, 1984, p.84.

10. Mulhall,M.G. & E.T. The English in South America, Buenos Aires,1877, p.128.

11. The Irish Digest. "Irish Refugees in Spain", April 1967. p.86.

12. 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.

13. The Southern Cross. Numero del Centenario, Buenos Aires, 1975, p.26. 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, p.129. The Dublin Review anti Rosas article is said to have been sponsored by Gral.0’Brien, then Uruguayan consul in London.

14. 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".

The 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.

15. 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".

16. Enrique 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..."

17. 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.

18. Letter sent to the Vicar of the Socorro Church, Miguel Garcia by Rosas. January 17, 1848.

19. In the documents of the time, Camila 0 Gormari is referred to as "the innocent young girl", arid Uladislao Gutierrez as "the blasphemous priest".

20. In some documents the last name may appear as San.

21. "The 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.

22. Adami. 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."

23. Adami, 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."

24.  All epigraphs from William Shakespeare’s LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST.


Hennesy A. & King J. ed. The Land that England Lost. London, 1973.

MacCann. William. Two Thousand Mile Ride through the Argentine Provinces. London, 1853.

Masefield, John. The Poems and Plays. New York, 1923.

Mulhall, M.G. The English in South America. Buenos Aires, 1878.

Murray. Thomas. The Story of the Irish in Argentina. New York, 1919.

Rock, David. Argentina 1516—1982— from Spanish Colonisation to the Falklands War. University of California Press. Berkeley, 1985.

Stewart, C.S. Brazil and La Plata. New York, 1856.

Ussher, Mons. Santiago M. Father Fahy. A Biography of an Irish

Missionary in Argentina. Buenos Aires, 1951.

Bibliografia en español

Arena Luque, Fermin V. Como era Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, 1979.

Bilbao, Manuel. Vindicaci6n y Memorias de Antonino Reyes. Buenos Aires, 1883.

Canas, Jaime. Que hicieron los agentes secretos en el Rio de la Plata. Buenos Aires, 1970.

Cordero, Hector Adolfo. C6mo era Buenos Aires desde su fundaci6n ha.sta fines del siglo XVII. Buenos Aires, 1970.

Gaynor, Juan Santos. El Padre Fahy. Buenos Aires, 1971.

Kisnerman, Natalio. Camila O’Gorman: el hecho hist6rico y su proyeccion literaria. Buenos Aires, 1973.

Korol. J.C. y Sabato, Hilda. C6mo fue Ia inmigraci6n irlandesa en Argentina. Buenos Aires. 1981.

Llanos, Julio. Camila O’Gorman. Buenos Aires, 1883.

Mc Cann, William. Viaje a caballo por las Provincias Argentinas. Buenos

Aires, 1939.

Molina, Enrique. Una sombra donde suena Camila O’Gorman. Buenos Aires, 1984.

Munoz Azpiri , .1 .L. El poema Rosas de John Masefield. Buenos Aires.

Olivera, M.A. Camila O’Gorman: una tragedia argentina. Buenos Aires,


Patino, Enrique. Los Tenientes de Artigas. Montevideo, 1936.

Perez, L., Addiego, R. y Duarte, W. Historia de Ia influencia britanica en el Rio de Ia Plata y especialmente en el Uruguay. Montevideo, 1946.

Perez Pardella. Agustin. Camila. Buenos Aires, 1988.

Perrone, Jorge. Diario de la Historia Argentina. Buenos Aires, 1992.

Radaelli, Sigfrido A. ed. Buenos Aires visto por viajeros ingleses

(1800—1825). Buenos Aires, 1945.

Ratto. Hector R.Cap. Hombres de Mar en la Historia Argentina. Buenos

Aires, 1934.

Rippy, J. Frederick. La Rivalidad entre Estados Unidos y Gran Bretana

por America Latina: 1080—1830. Buenos Aires, 1967.

Sanguinetti, Manuel Juan. San Telmo: su pasado historico. Tomo I: 1536-

1806. Buenos Aires, 1939.

Rosa, Jose Maria. Historia Argentina... Buenos Aires, 19

Sanchez Zinny. El drama de Camila O’Gorman, en Manuelita de Rosas y Ezcurra. Buenos Aires, 1941.

Sin, Eros N. Rosas y el proceso a Camila O’Gorman. Buenos Aires, 1939.

Periodicals and articles in both languages

Adami, Nazareno Miguel. Poder y sexualidad: el caso de Camila O’Gorman. Todo es Historia. Buenos Aires, no.281, Noviembre 1990.

Buenos Aires Herald. 119 Years Anniversary Supplement. Buenos Aires, September 15, 1995.

Corvatta, Maria Teresa y Demichelle, Eduardo. Camila O’Gorman: simbolo del rosismo en la literatura y en el arte. Todo es Historia. Buenos Aires, 1988.

Correspondencia de Ia Curia de Buenos Aires 1847—1848.

Mac Laughlin, Guillermo. Argentina: the forgotten Irish. Irish Roots Quarterly. Issue #4, 1993.

. Aspects of Irish Genealogy. Proceedings of the First Irish Genealogical Congress. Dublin, 1991.

The British Packet and Argentine News. Buenos Aires, 1840—1848.

The Irish Digest: Irish Refugees in Spain. Dublin, April 1967.

The Southern Cross. Numero del Centenario. Buenos Aires, 1975.



Please contact us if you have a question or wish to suggest changes

Copyright © The Irish Argentine Historical Society. 2004