The Mystery of the Kossuth Family in South America

In this article I talk about the research I have made about the unique history of my family that lives in Lima, Peru. We bear the Kossuth last name famous for being identified with the great Hungarian patriot Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894). I know that there are other Kossuth families in America, mostly in USA, but is really unlikely that they are related to Lajos in some way. (They are probably descendants from the sisters of Lajos, therefore they should have lost the Kossuth last name through marriage. It's a fact that there were people in that time that even named their children "Kossuth" after the visit of Lajos Kossuth to USA in 1851.)

Well where do I begin?
Everybody knows the history of Lajos Kossuth, his struggle for the independence of Hungary, his exile and his fate. In September 1851 the USS warship Mississippi picked up Lajos Kossuth, his family and several Hungarian comrades from Turkey to take them to USA. They made stops at Marseille and Spain. There Lajos Kossuth and his family took a different ship to go to Southampton, England, while his comrades continued their voyage to New York.[1]

On December 6th, 1851 Lajos Kossuth and his family finally reached USA on the ship Humboldt and was received at Ellis Island, New York with great enthusiasm by the American people. He was the second foreign citizen to make a speech in the National Statuary Hall (Marquis de Lafayette being the first).

The history of my family begins with the arrival to South America, more exactly to Peru, of Karoly Kossuth (he used the Spanish name Carlos, Karoly in Spanish, but I will refer him as Karoly) in the early 1850s. I have documents that prove that he worked at the Chincha Islands as an overseer for the extraction and export of Guano [2], a natural fertilizer that was sold to USA and Europe.

The Chincha Islands [3] are 3 islands 180 km south of Lima in the Pacific Ocean. They had vast amounts of guano, which was used as a natural fertilizer in Europe and USA. From 1840 to 1870 Peru enjoyed a period of prosperity because of this natural resource. Even a war was fought because of the riches they produced.[4]

In an article dated November 10th, 1853 [5], an American visited the Chincha Islands and met a Hungarian called Karoly Kossuth there. This American wrote in the article that this Hungarian told him that he was Kossuth's brother (though that seems to be unlikely) and that he came to USA with Kossuth during his exile in the early 1850s. "Having learnt that Lazlo Ujhazy only got land in USA he traveled south, went to New Orleans and was concerned in the Lopez affair to liberate Cuba from Spain [6], went to Mexico, thence to San Francisco, joined Flores and so reached Peru, where he entered the service. He has a good salary, and it is hinted that among all these ships waiting out the lay days of their charter parties for their cargoes, there are those which found out it is possible to secure his preference. The English say that he rather prefer the Americans; but this and all things concerning him are very mysterious. He is, I should think the general opinion to be, a smart scamp, who likes to direct matters, can give if not take a joke, is cruel enough for his place, and does not require to be taught anything in particular". It seems that his rule as an overseer at the Chincha Islands was short-lived, mainly because of cruel treatment of the Chinese labour force and capriciousness in the loading of the ships. In 1854 he was removed from his post and disappeared for a while.

Karoly Kossuth had 2 compromises, which created two branches of Kossuth families. The first branch, from his first compromise, is found in Arequipa, the second city of Peru, 1040km south of Lima where he married Maria Dolores Prado and got 4 sons, Blanca Kossuth Prado in 1856, Rosalia in 1857, Aurora in 1861 and Adolfo in 1863. Little is known about the 3 daughters, Blanca and Aurora lived in Lambayeque, a province of Peru 770km north of Lima, Blanca had a son with Esteban Montero and Aurora married an Italian named Peyrone. Information of Rosalia as for now is practically non-existant. What I surely know is that they as women lost the Kossuth last name (along with their descendants) when they got married. The last son of Karoly, Adolfo, married Isabel Ortiz and lived in Iquique a city that was part of Peru until 1883, when was lost to Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) [7]. He stayed all his life living there, and therefore his children were born Chileans, instead of Peruvians.

He had 6 sons, Francisco, Pedro, Blanca, Dolores, Luis and Maria Teresa. Francisco and Pedro only got daughters, Blanca, Dolores and Luis never had a son, and Maria Teresa (born in 1883) married Antonio Diaz Mathew in 1913. They had 4 sons, from which 3 of them still live today bearing the Kossuth last name as their mother's last name. I met one of them in 2005 when I traveled to Chile. I met Juan Diaz Kossuth (1923 - Present day) and his family in Vina del Mar, Chile. It was a wonderful moment. He gave me the baptism certificate of his grandfather, Adolfo Kossuth Prado, son of Karoly Kossuth. This branch of the Kossuth family lives in Chile at present time, but the last name will disappear when the 3 sons of Maria Teresa Kossuth that still live, die.

Sometime in the future Maria Dolores Prado wife of Karoly Kossuth died, and nothing more is known about him, only that in the 1880s he got a contract to work at the Central Railroad Company, for the Lima-La Oroya -Huancayo railway, until 2006, the highest railway in the world (4880 meters of altitude). He work supposedly with polish engineers Malinowski [8] and Habich [9] during the construction of the railway.

The second branch of the Kossuth family (this one is my family branch) came from the second compromise of Karoly with Juana Rosa Cobian and in 1887 they had a son, Carlos Kossuth Cobian (1887-1956).

Karoly died in 1888 of diarrhea in Lima one year after Carlos was born. (This is one of the main reasons why the knowledge of the history of Karoly Kossuth is so scarce). Karoly was 70 years old when he died. (I know this fact because I have his death certificate. It also proves that he was Hungarian).

Carlos Kossuth Cobian, my great-grandfather, had one son with Maria Navarro Bravo de Rueda in 1908, Oscar Kossuth Navarro (1908-1977), that as well had 3 sons with Luisa Maccera, my father Oscar Kossuth Maccera in 1939, Alfredo in 1942 and Jorge in 1946. My grandfather Oscar Kossuth Navarro was featured in an article published on September 7th 1961 in the Hungarian community newspaper Délamerikai Magyarság of Buenos Aires, Argentina. There he said that Karoly was a younger cousin of Lajos Kossuth and that in 1902 the Kossuth family in Peru published an article about the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lajos Kossuth in the newspaper "El Comercio" [10].

Until now the most important questions remain unanswered: When exactly did he come to Peru? From where and why? What was his true relationship with Lajos Kossuth?
I hope that I will answer them in the future with more research and help of people who may know facts about him. Meanwhile the mystery continues.

If anyone after reading this article has a fact or opinion to share, please contact me at my email:


a) Internet:
[1] USS war steamer Mississippi Hungarian passengers list, November 1851
[2] Guano,
[3] Chincha Islands,
[4] Chincha Islands War,
[5] Chincha Islands', Littell's Living Age, IV, No. 506 (28 Jan, 1854), pp. 213-216.
[6] Narciso Lopez,
[7] War Of The Pacific,
[8] Ernest Malinowski, (in Polish)
[9] Edward Jan Habich, (in Polish)
[10] Newspaper "El Comercio",
Birth and baptism certificates of Karoly Kossuth's sons,

b) Documents:
Chincha Islands', Littell's Living Age, IV, No. 506 (28 Jan, 1854), pp. 213-216.
A Primitive Export Sector: Guano Production in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Peru. In: W. M. Mathew, Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1 (May, 1977), pp. 35-57.
Délamerikai Magyarság, Buenos Aires, Argentina 9/7/1961
Péter Torbágyi: Magyarok Latin-Amerikában (Hungarians in Latin-America) published: Budapest, 2004
Documents of the Kossuth family, Lima, Peru
Documents of the Diaz family, Vina del Mar, Chile
Archivo General de la Nación, Lima, Peru

Vissza az oldal tetejére

Oskar Kossuth