Fray José de Guadalupe Mojica, Founder of Mexiquito, 40 Years after His Death
By Jesús Ibarra
Casa Hogar Mexiquito, also known as Santuario Hogar Guadalupano is located on Salida a Dolores across from the entrance to Colonia San Luis Rey. It is a home for abandoned, mistreated and orphaned boys run by Dominicas de María nuns. Mexiquito was founded by Father Fray José Guadalupe Mojica, formerly a Mexican actor and singer, who lived in San Miguel de Allende.
José de Jesús Mojica was born September 14, 1896, in the town of San Gabriel, Jalisco, son of Doña Virginia, a single mother. When José was about six, Doña Virginia married shoemaker Francisco Bracamontes. As a child, José faced death twice, when his younger half-brother Arnold contracted and died of smallpox, and when Catalina, his childhood sweetheart, died too. His stepfather was an alcoholic and while drunk he wounded Doña Virginia in the forehead, marking her face with a large scar. The stepfather was imprisoned and Doña Virginia, after selling her property, decided to move to Mexico City.
Doña Virginia and José – who was then ten –left San Gabriel in 1906 for Mexico City, where José studied at Sainte Marie, a religious school and later in Elementary School Number 3 and the Colegio de San Ildefonso. Between 1911 and 1914 he studied agronomy at the National School of Agriculture.
Since childhood, José had shown skills and talent for singing with a loud voice, so after leaving the School of Agriculture, he entered the National Conservatory of Music. Later he studied singing with Professor Alejandro Cuevas.
He debuted as a tenor singer in the Teatro Ideal, and afterwards he participated in the opera The Barber of Seville, on October 5, 1916, at the Teatro Arbeu (now Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada), with a great success.
During the time of the First World War, financed by his mother, he decided to emigrate to New York, where he formed a quartet of voices with his friends baritone Angel Esquivel, soprano Carmen García Cornejo, and mezzo-soprano Maria Grever – subsequently composer of the songs “Júrame” and “Te quiero, dijiste” (known as “Muñequita Linda”), among others. As they were unsuccessful, José had to survive by washing dishes.
In 1919, he met opera singer Enrico Caruso, who was impressed with the vocal skills of the young man and helped him get a contract with the Chicago Opera Company, in which he debuted on November 22, 1919, in the role of Lord Arthur Bucklaw in Donizetti’s Lucia de Lamoermoor. His definitive breakthrough was in the role of Pelléas, with the Scottish soprano Mary Garden in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at the Metropolitan Opera House. There were more than ten years of successful career in the United States, Latin America and Europe. Between 1924 and 1930 he recorded a number of songs – among them, arias and boleros – by composers like Maria Grever, Alfonsos Oteo Esparza, Manuel M. Ponce, Rimsky-Korsakov and Charles Guonod.
In 1930 José Mojica made his debut as an actor in Hollywood in the movie One Mad Kiss. Between 1930 and 1934 he acted in 10 Latin films in Hollywood. In 1939, he returned to Mexico to film The Adventurer Captain, directed by Arcady Boytler, Russian director whose film career took place in Mexico.
Around 1930, José Mojica bought Doña Virginia an old 17th century house in San Miguel de Allende, to which he gave the name of Villa Santa Monica, adjacent to Parque Juarez, which today works is a hotel. There, he invited his friends, personalities of Mexican and Hollywood cinema –Dolores del Río, María Félix, Pedro Armendáriz, Pedro Infante, Pedro Vargas, Agustín Lara, Gary Cooper, John Huston, John Ford and John Wayne, among others.
After Doña Virginia’s death in 1940, José Mojica went into a deep depression, which led him to become a friar. In 1942 he entered the Franciscan seminary in Cuzco in Peru, adopting the name of Fray José de Guadalupe Mojica. He was ordained a priest in 1947. He used his fame to bring together funds to found a seminary in Arquipa. In 1958, he wrote the autobiographical book Yo, Pecador (I, a Sinner), who served as inspiration for a film of the same name, with Libertad Lamarque as Doña Virginia, Pedro Geraldo as José Mojica, and Pedro Armendáriz as stepfather Francisco. Fray José himself appeared at the end of the movie, celebrating a mass.
Fray José continued to make regular visits to San Miguel de Allende, where he founded the Santuario Guadalupano Mexiquito in 1956, considered the home of the Virgin of Guadalupe in San Miguel. The sanctuary serves as a home for abandoned boys from dysfunctional families since 1967. It currently houses 35 boys, ranging from less than one year to 14 years old, who are under the care of five Dominican of Mary Sisters, led by Mother Teófila Jaimes Avilés.
Fray José de Guadalupe Mojica died at the convent of San Francisco in Peru, on September 20, 1974, after a severe hepatitis, six days after his 78th birthday. He is buried in the catacombs of the convent.
To help or donate to Casa Hogar Mexiquito and continue the work of Fray José de Guadalupe Mujica, please visit http://mexiquito.org.mx/index.html.