Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page

Text and Photos ©2014 by J. Pint

Photo Gallery

Jorge Monroy with Fray Antonio Alcalde

 Muralist Jorge Monroy adds a final touch to the face of Fray Antonio Alcalde, founder of Guadalajara’s Hospital Civil.

Guadalajara's original cathedral

 Detail of the mural shows Guadalajara’s cathedral as it looked in 1770 with the Barranca de Oblatos in the background.

Author and M.D. Mariano Azuela

Another doctor at the hospital was Mariano Azuela, famed author of Los de Abajo (The Underdogs).

Estela Primero

The mural includes portraits of present day hospital staff, such as Estela Primero, head of the Nursing Department, seen here with Jorge Monroy.

Dr. Enrique Estrada Faudón

A detail from the mural: Naturalist, botanist and geologist Doctor Enrique Estrada Faudón, who died in 2013. 

Jorge and Lupita Monroy

Jorge Monroy discusses details of his new mural with his sister Lupita.

John Pint photographing the Hospital Mural

John Pint photographing the mural, which is in full view of a spiral ramp connecting all the floors of the hospital.


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Artist Jorge Monroy tells the story

By John Pint

Jorge Monroy at foot of huge Hospital MuralGuadalajara painter Jorge Monroy, working with a team of three other artists, is nearing completion of a huge mural gracing the newest building of the Antiguo Hospital Civil complex.

The painting features Fray Antonio Alcalde, the hospital's founder, but, as in Monroy´s previous murals, offers the viewer much more than what at first meets the eye.

Monroy has been working on this project since August of 2013 together with three other artists, Ilse Taylor, Cristina Partida and Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, as well as an art student, Marcela Figueroa. The painting is 15 meters high and ten wide and is situated in the middle of a giant spiral staircase which offers visitors a different view of the obra from every level.

The main focus of the mural is Friar Antonio Alcalde who laid the first stone of the hospital in 1787 and who coined the expression "La salud del pueblo es la suprema ley" (Public health is the supreme law). In the mural, Alcalde is shown holding a human skull in his right hand. Monroy explains: “He was known in his day as the Friar of the Skull and there's a delightful anecdote about how he got his name and how pure chance brought him to the new world.”

At the age of 61, Alcalde was the Abbot of the monastery of Valverde near Valladolid, Spain. Continues Monroy: “One day, the king of Spain happened to be out hunting in the area and his party ended up getting lost. Finally, late at night, they came upon the Abby, so they asked permission to sleep there. That was how the king met Friar Antonio. Well, his majesty was impressed by the wisdom, simplicity and austerity of this humble monk. Also, it happened that in the room where the king was to sleep, there was nothing but a human skull. The following day, the king was back in his palace and the order of the day was to designate a bishop for Mexico. Immediately, the king said, 'We will send the friar of the skull.' He didn´t remember Alcalde's name, but he did remember that skull.”

Alcalde first served in Mérida and came to Guadalajara when he was 71. He lived another 20 years and dedicated his time to relieving people's suffering. 
Says Monroy: “Above the friar, at the top of the mural, you can see the Guadalajara cathedral as it looked in 1770 when Alcalde arrived here, and in the background is the Barranca de Oblatos which lies at the northern edge of the city.”
Monroy explains that further down the painting you can see some of Fray Antonio’s other projects, including the founding of the University of Guadalajara (with the approval of the Spanish Royals), the first printing press in the city and the creation of the Belen Cemetery.

Below these scenes, Monroy reminds us of the epidemics which struck Guadalajara during Alcalde’s lifetime. At one point there was an outbreak of plague and cholera that coincided with a widespread famine. During this period, 5,000 people died and Alcalde responded with the creation of the Hospital Civil, housing 800 patients.

Included in the mural are small portraits of many individuals who are or were connected with Friar Antonio's hospital, including famed author Mariano Azuela, who received his M.D. in Guadalajara in 1899 and went on to write Los de Abajo (The Underdogs), his first-hand description of combat during the Mexican revolution, based on his experiences in the field.

In the painting, Friar Antonio is shown reaching out to one of humanity's suffering souls, in this case a recent patient at the Hospital Civil. “I had a lot of trouble finding just the right model for The Patient,” says Monroy, “until I came upon this poor man. His name is Carlos and he's from Guerrero. He ended up in this hospital because he was hit by a car in Guadalajara. The doctors fixed him up and Carlos decided he liked the neighborhood. Now he sells holy cards out there in the street and that's where he sleeps, too. The moment I saw him, I knew he was the model I needed for this mural.”

The Patient, in Jorge Monroy's Hospital Mural

Inside The Patient, shown in the mural, can be seen numerous representations of human diseases and phobias. The model for The Patient was a poor man brought to the hospital after being hit by a car.

Within his depiction of The Patient, Monroy has painted hundreds of small figures representing suffering and pain. Inside the head we can see people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and even arachnophobia. Inside the outline of the rest of The Patient's body, the perceptive observer may find every infirmity from anorexia and diabetes to fractures and hemorrhages.
   “If we reflect on the origin of many of the sicknesses which bring people to the hospital,” says the painter, “we can't escape the conclusion that most of them are the result of modern life in a big city: congestion, unsanitary conditions, pollution, bad diet, lack of exercise, etcetera. So, at the bottom of the mural, I am portraying the city as a cause of infirmity. My model Carlos, in fact, is a good example. He was hit by a car and almost lost his leg. So I am showing the city as overcrowded, chaotic, catastrophic and apocalyptic.”

This monumental work of art will be entitled “Fray Antonio Alcalde y la Humanidad Doliente” (Friar Antonio Alcalde and Suffering Humanity) and will be signed by the artists in a ceremony which is expected to take place in November, 2014.

Like his previous murals, Under the Wings of Mercury (at the Guadalajara Chamber of Commerce), Eternal Light (at Infinity Funeral Home), Tlaloc Reigns over Chapala (at the State Water Commission, Chapala) and his monumental painting adorning the Phil Weigand Museum in Teuchitlán, Jorge Monroy's newest mural transcends the art of placing paint on canvas and carries us into the realms of reflection and wonder.

The Antiguo Hospital Civil is located in Guadalajara at Calle Coronel Calderón 777, between Hospital and Tenerías. Ask permission from the guards at the door if you would like to see the painting (“Solo quiero ver el mural.”)


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