Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara
Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara
Cultural Mexico Latin America And The Caribbean Jalisco, Guadalajara

Hospicio Cabañas is a unique architectural complex, designed to respond to social and economic requirements for housing the sick, aged, young and needy, which provides an outstanding solution of great subtlety and humanity. Orozco's murals in the chapel represent in part the most symbolic and characteristic elements of the indigenous culture of Mexico (gods, sacrifices, temples) and for the rest those of Spanish culture (kings, monks, churches). The central feature represents the submission of humans to machines, culminating in the masterpiece Man of Fire .

A sequence of droughts, floods and severe frosts created much poverty and misery in the town, which was founded in 1542. Around 1791 the Bishop of Guadalajara ordered the building of a hospital for the most destitute people, together with a group of lodgings for the workers and an orphanage. This project was taken up by his successor, Juan Ruiz de Cabañas, when he arrived in Guadalajara in December 1796. He requested the authorization of the Spanish Crown to create a Casa de la Misericordia to house the homeless, old people and orphans of the town.

Royal approval was given on 5 September 1803 to build a Casa de Expósitos (orphanage), which would also accept aged men and women, handicapped people and chronic invalids, along with their families, orphans or children of parents incapable of feeding them, as well as poor pilgrims. In Mexico City Bishop Cabañas had met Manuel Tolsá, an architect and sculptor from Valencia who had made some notable contributions to the architecture of Mexico. Tolsáaccepted a commission to design the proposed Hospicio, but entrusted supervision of its execution to his pupil, JoséGutierrez, who carried out most of the work between 1805 and 1810 (with the exception of the chapel).

The War of Independence interrupted the work, and the uncompleted buildings were used as a barracks and stables, first by the insurgents and then by the Royalist forces, until Mexico secured its independence from Spain in 1821. The Hospicio was not inaugurated until 1829. It was to become a barracks once again in 1858. When the military departed, the management of the Hospicio passed to the Sisters of Charity, and it was agreed that all the orphans would in future bear the name Cabañas. In 1872 it housed more than 500 people. However, with the expulsion of the sisters in 1872 economic aid was cut off and the number of orphans was halved by 1880. This unhappy situation was rectified by the action of the governor in 1883.

The growth of the Mexican Muralist movement was a demonstration of national cohesion and identity following the 1910-20 revolution. In the 1930s the Government of Jalisco invited JoséClemente Orozco to execute a number of works in public buildings in Guadalajara, where he worked between 1936 and 1939. His murals in the chapel of the Hospicio Cabañas, representing the multi-ethnic character of Mexican society and the allegory of the Man of Fire , are among his finest works. In the 1980s the Government of Jalisco located its newly created Cabañas Cultural Institute in the Hospicio, to house schools of art and crafts, exhibition rooms, and areas for theatre, music and dance.

The entire complex is laid out on a rectangular plan: all the buildings, which are, except the chapel and the kitchen, single-storey, are ranged round 23 courtyards. The great majority of these are arcaded on at least two sides. The architectural solution adopted by Tolsáfor the Hospicio is unique: its roots are to be found in ensembles such as the Monastery of El Escorial in Spain or the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.