In 1795 Don José Rossi y Rubi, Italian-born, Spanish political diplomat was rising in the ranks. He was the newly assigned Alcalde-Mayor of the Guatemalan province Suchitequepez when he was captured off the coast of war-ravaged Saint Domingue during the slave rebellions of the Haitian Revolution. For the next five months Rossi was imprisoned in Guárico. Being that he spoke French fluently he occupied himself by conversing with his French captors and eventually ingratiated himself with the officers. A constant source of debate within this group was the liberal agenda of the French Republicans that the Spanish crown so feared. Rossi soon discovered that his French captors desired him to join them in the Order of the Freemasons. When news of this reached the Spanish Ministry, trust in Rossi began to wane. Upon his release from Guárico, Rossi penned a report titled “Discovery on the Freemason sect” intended to alleviate the implications of his supposed induction into the French Masonic Order, but his report came too late. While Rossi was imprisoned, the celebrated navigator employed under the Spanish crown and his fellow Italian and mentor, Allessandro Malespina, failed an attempt to overthrow Godoy’s Ministry. The Masonic rumors combined with his reformist editorials in the Mercurio peruano and his close relationship to Malespina, and therefore the attempted coup, meant that he had lost the faith of Spain. Echoing the Spanish tendency to discard any potential threat, whether real or imagined, into one of the empire’s periphery locales, Spain responded as it often did with any individual displaying suspicious political views. It relegated Rossi to the Guatemalan rural periphery where his political rhetoric was neutralized.


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pp. 25-47
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