Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Instituto Cultural Cabañas

Instituto Cultural Cabañas

One of the first things that I did while in Guadalajara was to visit the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in the city’s historical center. This is an immaculate piece of architecture, and known as one of the country’s greatest examples of the neoclassic architectural style, designed by Manuel Tolsá at the beginning of the 19th century. The building now serves as a cultural institute dedicated to preserving classic artworks and inspiring new artists, and also hosts the biggest collections of one of Jalisco’s most renowned artists, José Clemente Orozco. Gaby, my friend that took me there, mentioned that when she was a kid she had taken many summer courses in painting there and passed the time playing hide and go seek with her friends in the large courtyards.

The history behind the building is fascinating as well, and due to this and its beauty, it was declared by UNESCO in 1997 to be a World Heritage Site. Tolsá was commissioned by bishop Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas y Crespo (hence the name) to design what would later become the bishop’s dream. In 1796, upon arriving to Nueva Galicia (New Galicia, or what is now the 3 states in México consisting of Jalisco, Aguascalientes, and Colima), Cabañas dreamt of building a public institution to give orphans a better life. The institution opened it’s doors in 1810 to become the said institution and one of the areas principal hospitals, but closed quickley and was converted into a military base. It was reopened for its original purposes in 1829, but was occasionaly taken back for military purposes due to Mexico’s turbulent times.

Here are some interesting facts about the Instituto Cultural Cabañas:

• Founded in 1791 by the Bishop of Guadalajara
• Doors opened for the first time in 1810, but construction was not finished until 1829.
• In 1859 in was put into the administration of the Hermanas de Caridad, who started a Project called Hospicio Cabañas and continued to assist and teach orphaned children.
• In 1912 due to the depreciation law of the church’s goods, the school became property of the Mexican government. The school was then administered by the Direction of Education of the State.
• In 1980, the government transformed it into a space dedicated to the difusion of arts, and was reopened under its new name, the Instituto Cultural de Cabañas in 1983.

The entire property, which consists of a symmetrical layout, has two chapels, 30 exposition rooms, and 23 patios. The main chapel has tall, dome shaped ceilings that have been completely covered in murals by José Clemente Orozco that depict the struggles of Mexican history, intertwined with symbology from his two historical passions, the Mexican Conquest and the Revolution. The murals here date back to 1937, when the government invited him to paint the interior of the main chapel.

Painting of Cortés by Orozco
inside the main chapel

I would definitely recommend to anyone visiting Guadalajara to take an hour or two and 35 pesos (about $3.50 US) and visit the Insituto Cabañas. You will learn about the history of the building, be amazed by the beautiful architecture, and get to see some of Mexico’s greatest artwork. The institute also offers many cultural classes and has rooms that can be rented for special occasions. More information can be found here.

Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10AM to 6PM and
Sundays from 10AM to 3PM (Closed Mondays).

Instituto Cultural Cabañas
Cabañas no. 8, Plaza Tepatía,
Guadalajara, Jalisco
(52) (33) 36 68 16 47

Orange tree in one of the 23 courtyards

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