Today’s Casona de Xicoténcatl is primarily famous for having served as the seat of the Mexican Senate for some 80 years. It’s history is quite a bit longer. A good part is today a cultural center. Filled with historic murals, sculpture, and paintings, in the main, these depict momentous points in the political and social life of the country.
The building was a 17th-century educational institution, the Seminary College of Our Lady Santa Ana (Colegio Seminario de Nuestra Señora Santa Ana). This name was changed when the Jesuits took over the site. Novices already in attendance were sent to the Colegio de San Francisco Xavier in Tepotzotlán.
As the construction costs had been covered by one Andrés de Carvajal y Tapia, the name was then changed to San Andrés.
The Building History at a Glance
- The building was then briefly a Jesuit institution called Casa de Probación y Ejercicios, a sort of fitness center for the exercise of spirituality.
- In 1767 it became the Colegio San Juan de Letrán.
- In 1770, the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain and it was converted into a Hospital, again named for San Andrés.
- By 1779, the Hospital de San Andrés was essential in confronting a plague ravaging the city.
- In 1783, the hospital was merged with the Hospital del Amor de Dios and was called the Hospital General de San Andrés.
- This hospital remained a part of the church until 1861, when the Federal Government took over.
- A Jesuit priest named Father Mario Cavalieri is said to have delivered a sermon fiercely criticizing the Benito Juárez government. (Jesuits had been permitted to return after 1816). Some historians recount that an angered President Juárez ordered the demolition of the church and part of the hospital in order to open Calle Xicoténcatl.
- The hospital was the site of the embalming of Emperor Maximiliano after he was executed in 1867.
- Most of the hospital continued operating until 1904 when it was demolished to build the Palace of Communications, today’s National Museum of Art. That neighboring building was completed in 1911.
- The remaining building, the Casona, was given to the Senate in 1931. The Senate used it as an alternate meeting hall for more than 80 years.
- In 2014, the Senate allocated funds for the building’s rehabilitation.
- At the same time, the construction of the new Senate library within the building began.
- The house today serves as a museum for the paintings by Silvia Pardo and Jorge Gonzalez. Several sculptures by Miguel Miramontes should also be seen.
The Casona de Xicoténcatl also offers a regular program of artistic, cultural, and historical events. These are often organized in collaboration with other institutions.