Teaching Module

Love & Authority in Argentina (19th c)

Adolfo O'Gorman to Juan Manuel de Rosas [Letter]


In 1847, at the height of Rosas's power, 19-year-old Camila O'Gorman, the daughter of a prominent merchant in the Buenos Aires community, and Ladislao Gutiérrez, a young Catholic priest, fell in love. On December 12, 1847, they eloped and fled the city. As reports surfaced about the actions of Camila and Ladislao, Adolfo penned the following letter to Juan Manuel de Rosas as a plea for his daughter's life. Adolfo portrayed his daughter not as an accomplice or an active participant in the elopement but as a passive young girl who was seduced by Ladislao.

Camilla's father, Adolfo O'Gorman y Perichón Vandeuil, has often been portrayed as a cruel and overbearing patriarch. María Luísa Bemberg's movie Camila (1984) perpetuated that image. However, modern scholars have re-evaluated his actions, seeing in this letter his effort to save his daughter's reputation, as well as his own. The patriarch's letter to Rosas was not the only request to spare Camila. Antonio Reyes, the prison warden, listened to her confession and advised her as she appealed for clemency. Even Manuelita Rosas, the dictator's daughter, reportedly made a plea to her father. All of these efforts failed, however, and Camila and Ladislao were executed on August 18, 1848.


O'Gorman, Aldolfo to Juan Manuel de Rosas. 21 December 1847. Cited in Llanos, Julio. Camila O'Gorman. Buenos Aires: La Patria Argentina, 1883, 271. Reprinted in "Passion and Patriarchy in Nineteenth-Century Argentina: María Luisa Bemberg's Camila," Based on a True Story: Latin American History at the Movies. Edited and translated by Donald F. Stevens, 85–102. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1997. Annotated by Jesse Hingson.

Primary Source Text


Buenos Aires on 21 December 1847
Most Excellent Señor:

I take the liberty of addressing Your Excellency by means of this letter, to raise to your Superior understanding the most atrocious act ever heard of in this country; and convinced of Your Excellency's rectitude, I find a consolation in sharing with you the desolation in which all the family is submerged.

Most Excellent Señor, Monday the sixteenth of the current month I was advised at La Matanza (where I reside) that my youngest daughter had disappeared; I instantly returned and have learned that a clergyman from Tucumán named Ladislao Gutiérrez had seduced her under the guise of religion, and stole her away abandoning the parish on the twelfth of this month, letting it be understood that in the evening he needed to go to Quilmes.

Most Excellent Señor, the preparations he has made indicate that he is heading inland, and I have no doubt he will cross into Bolivia, if possible, since the wound that this act has caused is mortal for my unfortunate family, and the clergy in general; consequently he will not feel secure in the Argentine Republic. Thus, Señor, I beg Your Excellency to send orders in every direction to prevent this poor wretch finds herself reduced to despair, and, understanding that she is lost, she may rush headlong into infamy.

Most Excellent Señor, that my presumptuous letter may find you at Lujan, and the state of affliction in which I find myself, both compel me to bring to the attention of Your Excellency these descriptions of the fugitives. The male individual is of average height, thin of body, moreno in color, large brown eyes that bulge somewhat, curly black hair, a full but short beard of twelve to fifteen days; he has two woven ponchos, one black and the other dark with red stripes, he has used them to cover pistols in his saddlebags. The girl is very tall, black eyes, white skin, chestnut hair, thin of body, and has a front tooth that sticks out a bit.

Most Excellent Señor, deign to overlook the style of this letter. Your Excellency is a father and the only one capable of remediating a case of transcendental importance for all of my family, if this becomes public knowledge. All of them add their pleas to mine, to implore the protection of Your Excellency whose humble servant is Adolfo O'Gorman.

How to Cite This Source

"Love & Authority in Argentina (19th c)," in Children and Youth in History, Item #60, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/60 (accessed August 10, 2021).