Rosa Campuzano Cornejo

Rosa Campuzano Cornejo 

(1796-1851)

DJ Name: DJ PondeROSA

Some romances are steamy. Others are forbidden. And a few spur on espionage and a fight for your country’s independence, or at least that was the case for Rosa Campuzano Cornejo and her boo thang, General José de San Martín. No, this isn’t a Nicholas Sparks classic; it’s real Peruvian history. But like many historias de amor, there were ups and downs and there were, of course, some Achy Breaky Hearts. Don’t worry though, we promise there will be absolutely no Billy Ray on Rosa’s playlist, which she expertly crafted:

Rosa was born in Guayaquil, Peru (but modern-day Ecuador), on April 13, 1796, and she, like Trevor Noah, was Born a Crime. Kind of. Her father, Francisco Herrera Campuzano y Gutierrez, was a wealthy and successful cocoa producer, while her mother, Felipa Cornejo, was mulatta, which is a term that refers to a person of mixed descent. And in the case of Latin America, mulattos and mulattas were typically born to a parent who was a Spaniard and a parent who was enslaved — and usually, a male Spaniard and an African woman. If one was classified as a mulatta like Felipa, one pretty much was considered illegitimate and would not move up society’s exclusive social ladder. This trickled down to Rosa’s life as well, and she, too, wasn’t respected because her traits indicated mixed heritage while her fair skin and blue eyes set her apart from others. Rosa received a good education, and was often described as “intelligent” and “literate” — hey! Just like us! Except we’re also “cool” and “extraordinarily attractive” per reliable sources. 

But let’s take un paso back 250 years before Rosa was born — to 1532, when Francisco Pizarro sailed the ocean blue, and landed a Spanish army in Peru with the intent to do some conquerin’ and plunderin’ of the Inca Empire. Three years later, Francisco founded the city of Lima as the capital of his newly conquered lands. Across the ocean, Spain announced that this new territory called Peru, which encompassed nearly all of South America except for Brazil, was Spanish territory. In the years that followed this declaration, the indigenous population declined as European colonizers introduced diseases that resulted in deadly epidemics. By the 1700s, unrest was stirring as the Spanish crown made moves to strengthen its hold on its territory but in effect perturbed the mixed-race, native-born elites.

So now let’s hop back like a conejo to Rosa’s life in the early 1800s when a Peruvian independence movement was really starting to take hold. In 1817, when she was 21, Rosa went to live in Lima and became a mistress to a wealthy Spaniard, where she became well known in the Lima limelight. Thanks to her social standing, Rosa was able to cozy up to many loyalist Spaniards, learn their combat plans and then relay that intel to the independence movement’s military leaders. She might not have sent her insider information through wax figurines like Patience Lovell Wright did, but she did use her wily ways to extract important info for the military boys.

Rosa became romantically linked to Domingo Tristán, said the gossip tabloids, around 1820. Domingo was a general, and he was once visited by two men who discussed the Spanish army’s plans while Rosa was in the room. Rosa got those receipts AKA strategic military notes and passed them on to the liberation movement’s army. Domingo also often hosted fancy parties in his home, which prominent Lima figures would attend such as Simón Bolívar’s lover, Manuela Sáenz. Rosa and Manuela became amigotas, as well as partners in conspiratorial crime against the Spaniards. 

Rosa read banned books and pasted pro-Peruvian independence propaganda around Lima town squares during the dark of the noche. Banned books were selected by the Spanish Inquisition, which was a group within the Catholic Church that was put together to prevent people from reading, learning or converting to other faiths. They said Catholicism or nothing, and Rosa said, “Well I’m gonna read this book about Judaism.” Por ejemplo. Not really. We don’t know what she said, obviously, because there actually isn’t even a ton of detailed research out there (on the interwebs) about Rosita! 

While reading banned books over the years, she also continued to deliver the overhead messages she gathered in places of high society to activists fighting for Peruvian independencia. She hid officers in a home she rented and furnished, provided them with food, passed along more top-secret messages and sent them on their ways to the next stop in their fight for liberation. Rosa was crushing it as a Peruvian patriot, so naturally when the new nation finally gained independence from years under España’s (read: “eTHspaña’s”) control, she got to attend the fiesta to celebrate. Which is where she locked eyes (and lips) with Peru’s most famous Liberator, Protector and her soon-to-be secret lover. 

On the fateful evening of July 28, 1821, Rosa met General José de San Martín at a party organized by the Cabildo de Lima (basically, the town council threw a soiree to celebrate la independencia and that’s where they met. It got LIT!) She was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 25-year-old patriotic spy; he was the 43-year-old “Protector of Peru.” General José had spent years at the center of the fight while Rosa, secretly, was too. Little did they know that though separate in their fights for independence, their efforts made incredible impacts in their own ways. General José worked with the (now) Argentine, Chilean and Peruvian armies to defeat the Spaniards. Remember, this was pretty much all one, Spanish territory minus Brazil (easy math). There weren’t separate, independent countries like Argentina, Chile and Peru…yet. 

That is, until, General José told Spain, “No way…will you keep us under your control” as he successfully led forces across the Andes Mountains (securing Chile’s independence) and into Lima where they gained partial control of the city, and declared independence. July 28 was a big day for Rosa and General José: Peruvian independence and their meet cute. General José and Rosa’s love was supposedly a secret, but also not really because people could see their star crossed eyes gaze at each other during the celebratory fiestas. It was a short lived affair, but its impact lasted a lifetime. Rosa was adorned with the name “La Protectora.” The two protectors parted ways the next year. They could, apparently, hardly say goodbye to each other.

But they eventually did, and General José journeyed north to meet with Simón Bolívar in July of 1822, known as the Guayaquil Conference, to strategize a partnership between Colombia and Peru in the hopes that the two could tag team and completely oust the Spaniards. Simón and General José had opposing #views on how to handle the business. and wanted different types of government: Bolívar was more for small republics within the new, independent nations whereas General José wanted a European style of government with a monarchy. They couldn’t get on the same page, so General José left and then retired. Which is like, random? 

Ok. Back to Rosa, though. Before retirement, General José created the “Order of the Sun of Peru” (“Orden del Sol del Perú”), with which he decorated 112 knightly ladies and 32 nuns for their brave, badass and secret services during the fight for Peruvian independence from España. And among those rewarded was *drum roll* Rosa Campuzano Cornejo! ¡Buena! ¡Eso, chica! The award read, “A los más sensibles.” Of course, people being people rolled their eyes at and gossiped about Rosa’s reception of this award because word had gotten out about her secret love affair with General José, which tainted her reputation.

Rosa stayed out of the public eye for most of the rest of her life and dabbled in a few relationships, one with a German merchant named Juan Weniger. He sensibly owned two shoe stores and they had a son together named Alejandro Weniger Campuzano. Though when they separated, Juan took their son with him. Then she met and, supposedly, married Juan Adolfo Gravert. He abandoned her for Europe. Sadly left alone for the end of her life, Rosa Campuzano Cornejo passed away in 1851 at the age of 55. She is buried in the Church of San Juan Bautista in the city where she spent her life fighting for and successfully winning her country’s independencia, Lima, Peru.

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