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Camila O'Gorman at age 23, 1848
Merced, Buenos Aires
|Died||18 August 1848 (aged 23)
Camila was born in Buenos Aires, the youngest daughter of Adolfo O'Gorman and his wife, Joaquina Ximénez Pinto. She was the second-to-last of six children in an upper-class family of mixed Irish, French and Spanish descent. Typical of powerful families in Argentina's post-colonial era, two of her brothers went on to pursue reputable careers. One as an ordained priest of the Jesuit Order, and the other as a police officer and the eventual founder of the Buenos Aires Police Academy.
She was also the granddaughter of Ana Perichon de O'Gorman (1776-1847), renowned lover of the Viceroy of the La Plata Santiago de Liniers, First Count of Buenos Aires. As the first British invasion occurred, Liniers was part of the defence of Buenos Aires. Because of his heroic actions in defence of the city, he was appointed Military Governor of Buenos Aires and Ana became the unofficial first lady. Her importance and power led to accusations intended to discredit her, including allegations that she was a spy for the French or the English. After Liniers died in 1810 she retired to a quieter life with her sons and died peacefully in 1847, at the age of 72.
In 1847 Argentina was governed by Juan Manuel de Rosas, a General of the Argentine Army and a politician. Rosas governed the Argentine Confederation by decree from 1829 until 1852. Like Hitler and Stalin after him, Rosas created an omnipresent Cult of Personality and conducted murderous witch hunts for real or imagined opposition.
Camila was considered a pillar of polite society, a close friend and confidante of Rosas' daughter, Manuelita, and a frequent guest at the Presidential Palace.
In her late teens, Camila was introduced to Father Ladislao Gutiérrez, a Jesuit priest who had attended seminary with her brother. At the time, the Society of Jesus was the only institution within Argentina's Catholic Church which continued to speak out against Rosas' police state tactics. This later led Rosas to banish the Jesuits from Argentina.
Father Gutiérrez came from a similar background; his uncle was the Provincial Governor of Tucumán, Celedonio Gutiérrez. Ladislao had been assigned as the parish priest of Nuestra Señora del Socorro (Our Lady of Relief) and was frequently invited to the O' Gorman's family's estate. They soon began a clandestine affair.
They escaped in December 1847 and settled in Goya, Corrientes Province, where they set up the town's first school and posed as a married couple under false names. Corrientes was at the time under the control of Benjamín Virasoro, a warlord hostile to Juan Manuel de Rosas. As the scandal broke, Adolfo O'Gorman sent a letter to the Leader. He accused Fr. Ladislao Gutierrez of having seduced Camila, "under the guise of religion." Adolfo described himself and his family as heartbroken and pleaded that his daughter be rescued from the man he accused of having kidnapped her.
Rosas' exiled political opponents, and future President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento declared that Rosas was responsible for the moral corruption of Argentine womanhood.
Camila and Ladislao were recognised at a social party by an Irish priest named Fr. Michael Gannon. They were then abducted and returned to Buenos Aires. To the shock and horror of all following the story, Camila claimed that it had been she who had initiated her relationship with Father Ladislao Gutierrez and insisted on their elopement, angrily denying rumors that she had been raped.
From Buenos Aires, Rosas had given strict orders - the fugitives were to be sent to the prison of Santos Lugares de Rosas (today San Andrés town in General San Martín, Buenos Aires province) in separate carriages - as indicated by Foreign Relations Minister Felipe Arana in his warrant of arrest.
Before reaching their final destination, Camila wrote to Manuelita Rosas, with the hope that she might persuade her father into granting clemency. Manuelita replied to her friend’s letter, promising to help. Manuelita optimistically furnished a cell in a nearby Convent with a piano and books. However, Rosas denied his daughter's pleas and replied that this case, "needs a show of my undisputed power, as the moral values and sacred religious norms of a whole society are at stake".
At the time, Rosas had removed the administration of justice from the courts and taken it upon himself. As was procedure, he signed a decree ordering the execution of Camila and Fr. Ladislao.
Immediately after arriving to the prison, according to Canon Law, Father Castellanos, the prison chaplain, visited Camila’s cell and baptised her unborn baby. This consisted of Camila drinking holy water and placing consecrated ashes on her forehead.
The next morning, 18 August 1848, Camila and Ladislao were taken to the courtyard, tied to chairs, and with their eyes blindfolded. It is said that the firing squad was unwilling to execute Camila and had to be coerced.
Rosas accepted full responsibility for the execution, and said that nobody had made any plea for the couple. Many documents have survived. Amongst them a letter from Camila's father to Rosas, demanding "exemplary punishment for the most atrocious and unheard of event in this country".
There is also a book published in 1883, many years after the event, by 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 Prison. Reyes was used to all the brutalities taking place at the prison, but he confessed that Camila and Ladislao's situation had genuinely moved him to the extent that he decided not to witness the execution and that out of compassion he ordered both bodies to be placed in the same coffin. Only then did he write to the Leader and inform him that his orders had been carried out.
In the aftermath of their deaths, both friends and enemies of Rosas claimed to be appalled by the cruel and senseless execution, including Sarmiento and his fellow Unitarios, and wrote about it using terms such as "the beautiful girl", "the doomed couple" and "the repression of love".
Camila O'Gorman was 23 and was eight months pregnant with an illegitimate child. Father Ladislao Gutiérrez was 24.
- 1910 - Camila O'Gorman, directed by Mario Gallo and starring Blanca Podestá in the title role. It was one of the first feature films made in Argentina, and is now lost.
- 1984 - Camila, directed by María Luisa Bemberg and starring Susú Pecoraro as Camila O'Gorman, Imanol Arias as Father Gutiérrez, and Héctor Alterio. It was Argentina's second nomination ever to an Academy Award (the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film).
- Coghlan, Eduardo A., Los Irlandeses en Argentina: su Actuación y Descendencia (Buenos Aires, 1987), p. 420. (Spanish)
- Julianello, Maria Teresa, The Scarlet Trinity: The Doomed Struggle of Camila O'Gorman against Family, Church and State in 19th-Century Buenos Aires. (Cork: Irish Centre for Migration Studies, 2000).
- Luna, Félix (ed.), Camila O'Gorman (Buenos Aires: Planeta, 2002). (Spanish)
- Lascano, Marcelo (2005). Imposturas históricas e identidad nacional (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: El Ateneo. ISBN 950-02-5900-1.
- Galeano, Diego (2009). Médicos y policías durante la epidemia de fiebre amarilla (Buenos Aires, 1871) (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Salud Colectiva. pp. 107–120.
- Adolfo O'Gorman's Letter to Juan Manuel de Rosas, December 21, 1847
- Adolfo O'Gorman's letter to President Juan Manuel de Rosas. December 21, 1847
- Murray, Edmundo. "O'Gorman, Camila (1828-1848), figure of scandal"
- (spanish) History of Santos Lugares prison