Friday, April 24, 2015

Hospital de Jesus, the oldest operating Hospital in the New World

The History of the Hospital de Jesus

Today, I wrote to you about the the Virgin of the Remedies Shrine or Basilica de los Remedios as it is known in Spanish, and how the Catholic Devotion in Mexico for this Virgin had an important role in a crucial battle during the conquest of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico as we call it today.
I have some questions for you, before I start off on today's subject?
Where was the first hospital as such set up on the North American mainland? Who founded this first hospital? Why was his interest in setting up a hospital? Is it still in operation?
Hernán Cortes, once he won the decisive battle to conquer Tenochtitlan, urgently needed a hospital to tend to his wounded, and also to his high ranking allies, especially the warrior chiefs from Tlaxcala. He founded the Hospital de Jesús, which after almost 500 years is still in operation. He is buried nextdoor in the Church of Jesús Nazareno.
Majestic colonnade and central courtyard of the Hospital de Jesus, downtown Mexico City

Hernán Cortes is an uncomfortable figure in Mexican intellectual and political life. In a certain way, he was and is to a certain degree, an uncomfortable figure in Spanish intellectual and political life, during his day and age, and even nowadays. Hernán Cortes managed the greatest conquest with the fewest men in the history of mankind. He has no parallel, not even Alexander the Great or Napoleon. He was not only a great military strategist, but also a profoundly religious person, similar in this sense to Ignatius of Loyola. Yet here, in the hallway of the Hospital de Jesus, is this small bronze bust, and probably the only public monument of sorts honoring him in all of Mexico.
 Bronze bust of Hernán Cortes in the reception área of the Hospital de Jesús, with Estela, my wife

Nextdoor, in the Church of Jesus Nazareno, on the sidewall of the main altar, is a small red and gold crypt, the final resting place of Hernan Cortes.

The crypt and final resting place of Hernan Cortes on the sidewall of Jesus Nazareno Church

But why is Cortes buried precisely here, at this particular spot. To eternally honor his patronage for the adjoining Hospital. Right behind the church shown below is the place of an historical meeting that took place in November, 1519, when the Emperor Moctezum II, personally greeted Hernan Cortez, in a peaceful and gracious manner, in the company of his courtesans, members of his entourage and family.

The façade of the Church of Jesus Nazareno, downtown Mexico City

Cortes and many of the first conquistadores did everything possible to maintain intact the Aztec noble class. The concept of the nobleza indigena as called in Spanish was socially accepted not only in la Nueva España, as Mexico was called by the Spanish, but even in mainland Spain. The abolishment of many of their privileges in the XVIII century, proved in part to be to the undoing of civilization of the Nueva España, and to the discontent that led to the eventual independence of México. 
General Information about the Hospital de Jesús

20 de Noviembre 82,
(between Republica del Salvador and Mesones)
Centro, Ciudad de Mexico, CP 06090
Phone: 5542 6501 to 07


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