Hospitales de Michoacan

Tricia Gabany-Guerrero (gabanyt@CWU.EDU)
Fri, 16 Aug 1996 10:14:13 -0700

In my ethnohistorical study of the Tarascans/Purhepecha of the 16-17th C
based on archaeology and historical documents, I have generally found
that although the social model for the hospitales appears to have come
from Quiroga and inadvertantly More, the Purhepecha leaders transformed
the hospital into their own institution which by the 17th C served as a base
augmenting communal resources and economic power rather than as a
"hospital" in the sense of caring for the sick and dying. It may also
have served as a center for maintaining pre-conquest networks, or
restablishing networks, with other native communities which were
disrupted by the Spanish invasion. The syncretism of religious practice
is an interesting aspect of the hospitales. After spending over three
years in Michoacan researching the hospitales history and religious
practices, I am convinced that the
issue is extremely complicated and cannot be resolved by a superficial
discussion of practices. Great care needs to be taken in
current practices in the hospitales, with regard to the Virgin, and
extrapolating the
practices which occured during the 16th and 17th c. There also appear to
be strong distinctions between the ways that the Purhepecha leaders
interpreted the hospitales in the sierra and Patzcuaro basin areas. The
inaccessibility of the highland communities and the lack of economic
interest by encomenderos and the religious in some of these same
communitites also
seem to have been factors in how much control Purhepecha leaders could
exert over the hospitales. I am leaning more and more toward a symbolic
analysis of Purhepecha belief during this period.

I am quite interested to know if there is any information on the
remarkable mural paintings at the Tzirosto hospital and capilla. I was
impressed by their preservation despite their exposure to the elements.
Have you or anyone else examined these murals?