José Mojica

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José Mojica
Born Crescenciano Abel Exaltación de la Cruz José de Jesús Mojica Montenegro y Chavarín
(1896-09-14)September 14, 1896
San Gabriel, Jalisco, Mexico
Died September 20, 1974(1974-09-20) (aged 78)
Lima, Peru
Nationality Mexican
Other names Fray José de Guadalupe
Mojica, OFM
Years active 1947–1974 (religious)
1930–1966 (actor)
1919–1940 (opera singer)

Fray José de Guadalupe Mojica [mohe-cah] (September 14, 1896 – September 20, 1974) was a Mexican Franciscan friar and former tenor and film actor. He was known in the music and film fields as José Mojica.[1]

Mojica joined the world of the American film industry before entering religious life. Together with Dolores del Río, Tito Guízar, Ramón Novarro and Lupe Vélez, he was among the few Mexican people who made history in the early years of Hollywood. Regarding his activity as a friar, singer and actor, he felt that religion and art have never been at conflict. If God gave me the grace of voice and singing skills, I use them for His glory, he explained.[1]

Early life

Born in San Gabriel, Jalisco, Mojica was raised in a coffee and sugar plantation community until the age of six, when his father died. After a lonely, fatherless childhood, he moved with his mother to Mexico City, where he studied at the Academy of San Carlos and later attended the National School of Agriculture.[1] Regrettably, after four years of studies he was forced to leave, when the school was closed due to the Mexican Revolution armed conflict.[2] This experience led him to find his true calling, and began to take private voice lessons while studying at the National Conservatory of Music of Mexico.[2]

In addition, Mojica sharpened his skills in drama and displayed a particular gift for languages as he mastered English, Italian and French. He also learned to play the guitar and play Mexican songs as well practiced dance, athletics and horse riding.[2] When he felt secure, he began working as operatic tenor at the Teatro Ideal. Then, on October 5, 1916 debuted at the Teatro Arbeu, where he played the Count Almaviva role in Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville.[1] The following year, he performed the role of Rodrigo in Verdi's Otello.[1]

Career in the United States

Shortly after the United States had entered World War I, funded by his mother, with $500 in his pocket, Mojica went to New York City and did petty jobs before he could join an opera company. In his spare time, he usually attended performances of Enrico Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera.[1] The famed Caruso, having met Mojica in 1919, was impressed with the vocal skills of the young Mexican singer and helped him to obtain a contract with the Chicago Civic Opera company.[3] He debuted on November 22 of the same year singing the minor role of Lord Arthur Bucklaw in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor,[1] an opera loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.[4]

While at Chicago he landed secondary roles, but his career slowly gained momentum in 1921 when he played leading parts in Debussy´s Pelléas et Mélisande and Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges, the former alongside renowned soprano Mary Garden.[5] Prokofiev himself attended to the rehearsals of his work and conducted the very first performance on December 30, sung in French.[5] Mojica also befriended Feodor Chaliapin during the singer's visit to Chicago. Under Chaliapin's guidance, he played the role of Shúyskiy in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov.[5]

In 1933, after leaving Chicago, Mojica made his one trip across the Atlantic. He sang at the Mexican Embassy in Berlin, and also performed in Italy and Egypt.[5] He later worked at the Metropolitan Opera House, where he was soon given leads opposite Lily Pons.[6] Occasionally, he returned to the Chicago Opera, notably as Fenton in Verdi's Falstaff during the 1940 season.[5]

Recording singing career

The versatility of Mojica is reflected in his extensive discography, which he recorded for Edison[7] and the Victor Talking Machine Company.[8]

By the time Mojica recorded for Edison, 1925–1926, he had become an important figure at the Chicago Opera, having moved into principal roles. He left Edison and joined the roster of Victor in 1927 and also made several successful early sound films. He moved comfortably during the 1930s through the worlds of opera, film, and concerts, but left this milieu in 1943, honoring a deathbed promise to his mother to become a priest. Like Edison, Mojica eventually became completely deaf.

His popular musical recordings show an attractive lyric voice often used with skill and imagination in songs such as Júrame, composed by María Grever, which was released by Victor in 1927.[9] The song became an instant success and has been recorded by countless singers over the years.

Hollywood career

Opera work aside, Mojica found time to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. He signed a contract with Fox Film Corporation in 1930, making his debut the same year as a Spanish outlaw in the romantic musical One Mad Kiss (1930), co-starring Argentine actress Mona Maris.[3] He co-starred with her in other films, and often alongside Spanish actresses Conchita Montenegro and Rosita Moreno.[3] By finding himself in leading roles through his acting career, he was able to adapt to varied roles which included Latin lovers, a Russian cossack, Sultan of a harem, and a curious impersonation of the legendary Dick Turpin.[3] For the rest of the decade, he also filmed in Argentine, Mexico, Peru and Spain.

A short time before his retirement, Mojica originally performed the song Solamente una vez,[10] written by Agustín Lara, in the 1941 film Melodías de América.[11] This song was known later as You Belong to My Heart, with English lyrics written by Ray Gilbert, and has been recorded by many other artists, including Andrea Bocelli, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Charlie Haden and Elvis Presley.[12]

Antigua Villa Santa Monica

The Antigua Villa Santa Monica is located at San Miguel de Allende, a city and municipality in the state of Guanajuato in North-Central Mexico.[13] This estate was built in the 17th century with mining wealth. Abandoned at the time of the Mexican Revolution, and in ruins for years, Mojica acquired and restored it around 1930. He then made this home for his mother. In this villa he used to invite his friends from the artistic community such as María Félix, Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz, Gary Cooper, John Ford, John Huston, Pedro Infante, Agustín Lara, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Vargas and John Wayne, among many others.[14] It was the death of his mother in 1942 which put an end Hollywood, the stage, and romance. At his mother's deathbed, Mojica promised her to become a priest. He then gave up his professional career, went to the Church and distributed his estate, mainly to a religious order. The Antigua Villa Santa Monica became a prestigious hotel in the 1940s. In fact there are some trees in the property that show plates with the names of those celebrities who planted them.[14]

Secular life

Even after retiring from acting, Mojica periodically performed to support laudable charitable causes.[5] Following his career he left for Cuzco, Perú, where he entered the Monastery of San Francisco, Lima and adopted the name of Fray Francisco José de Guadalupe Mojica. In Lima, Fray Mojica founded a school to train priests. Nevertheless, the lure of the stage could not be long absent from his life, for Mojica began directing amateur plays and later became a painter to continue his artistic legacy.[5] Then, spanning the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a few films in order to collect money for his order, which included a concert tour of Central America to raise funds in 1954.

When Mojica became afflictled with a temporary deafness, he was prompted by his superiors to write his autobiography. putting halt to his singing, he was ordered by his superiors to write his memoirs. He then wrote his autobiography, Yo pecador... (I sinner), which appeared in 1956. The book sold more than three million copies in Spanish before its translation into English in 1963.[5] A film adaptation of the book, with the same title, was released in 1959.[15]


Mojica eventually became completely deaf. After suffering for years from acute hepatitis, he died in 1974 of heart failure at the Monastery of San Francisco in Lima, just six days after his 78th birthday.[5]

Notable recording acts

Date Title Composer Label
1924 Al pie de tu ventana Traditional serenade Edison 80794
1924 Eres tú Alfonso Esparza Oteo Edison 80792
1924 Golondrina mensajera Alfonso Esparza Oteo Edison 80792
1924 Princesita José Padilla Edison 80794
1925 El Nopal Mario Talavera Edison 60047-L
1925 Lejos de ti Manuel M. Ponce Edison 60049-L
1925 Marchita el alma Manuel M. Ponce Edison 82344-L
1926 Una furtiva lagrima (L'elisir d'amore) Gaetano Donizetti Edison 82344-A
1926 Gratia plena Mario Talavera/Amado Nervo Edison 76018-L
1926 Lolita Arturo Buzzi-Peccia Edison 82344-L
1927 Pais azul Jorge del Moral Victor 40020
1927 Pasas por el abismo Jorge del Moral/Amado Nervo Victor 40021
1927 Júrame María Grever Victor 40023
1927 Gratia plena Mario Talavera/Amado Nervo Victor 40026
1928 Salve, dimora Charles Gounod Victor 42962
1928 Czar Berendey's cavatine Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Victor 42963
1930 Oh! Where are you? José Mojica/Troy Sanders Victor 58579
1930 One mad kiss José Mojica/Troy Sanders Victor 58658
1930 Behind the mask James F. Hanley/Joseph McCarthy Victor 58659
1930 Lament José Mojica/Dudley Nichols Victor 58662
1930 ¿En dónde estás? José Mojica/Troy Sanders Victor 62644
1930 Un beso loco José Mojica/Troy Sanders Victor 62645


Year Title Country Genre Role Refs
1930 One Mad Kiss United States Musical/Romance José Salvedra [16]
1930 Cuando el amor ríe United States Drama/Romance Emilio Rodríguez de Viana [17]
1931 Hay que casar al príncipe United States Comedy/Romance Prince Alexis [18]
1931 La ley del harem United States Musical/Romance Prince Al-Hadi [18]
1931 Mi último amor United States Comedy Fernando Urrutia [19]
1932 El caballero de la noche United States Adventure Dick Turpin [20]
1933 El rey de los Gitanos United States Musical/Romance Karol [21]
1933 Melodía prohibida United States Drama Kalu [22]
1934 La cruz y la espada United States Drama Hermano Francisco [23]
1934 Un capitan de Cosacos  United States  Drama Sergio Danikoff [24]
1934 Las fronteras del amor United States Comedy/Musical/Romance Miguel Segovia [25]
1939 The Adventurous Captain United States  Adventure/Musical/Romance  don Gil de Alcalá [26]
1940 The Miracle Song Mexico Musical/Drama/Family Ramón [27]
1941 Melodies of America Argentina Comedy/Musical as Himself [28]
1953 El pórtico de la gloria Spain Melodrama/Religion as Himself [29]
1959 Yo pecador Mexico Drama/Musical/Religion as Himself [30]
1966 Seguiré tus pasos Mexico/Peru Family/Drama/Religion as Himself [31]


  • Berger, Dina; Wood, Andrew Grant (2010). Holiday in Mexico: Critical Reflections on Tourism and Tourist Encounters – The Arrival of the Hollywood Star: José Mojica, page 188. Duke University Press Books. ISBN 978-0-82-234571-8
  • Lacy, Mary (2008). The Grove Book of Opera Singers – Mojica, José, page 328. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-533765-5
  • Mojica, Fray José Francisco de Guadalupe – Autobiografía (1959). Editorial Jus (México). ISBN 0-7864-2100-2
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Escritores del Cine Mexicano Sonoro UNAM - Universidad Nacional – MOJICA, José Fray José de Guadalupe".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Spanish)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Fundación José Guillermo Carrillo – Biography and music archives for José Mojica".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Spanish)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 " – José Mojica biography by I. S. Mowis".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Fisher, Burton (2005). Lucia di Lammermoor. Opera Journeys Publishing. ISBN 1-930841-79-5
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 "Arkiv Music – José Mojica article".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Frate Francesco website – José Mojica biography".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Spanish)
  7. "Three Edison Tenors – Giuseppe Anselmi * Alessandro Bonci * José Mojica".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings – José Mojica (tenor vocal)".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Júrame, sang by José Mojica on YouTube
  10. Second Hand Songs – Solamente una vez, first performance in the film Melodías de América (1941).
  11. Solamente una vez, clip ot he film Melodías de América on YouTube
  12. Second Hand Songs – Solamente una vez versions
  13. Antigua Villa Santa Mónica website
  14. 14.0 14.1 "San Miguel Hotels – Antigua Villa Santa Mónica".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Yo pecador on YouTube
  16. – One Mad Kiss (El precio de un beso, original title, 1930)
  17. – Cuando el amor ríe (1930)
  18. 18.0 18.1 – Hay que casar al príncipe (1931)
  19. – Mi último amor (1931)
  20. – El caballero de la noche (1932)
  21. – El rey de los Gitanos (1933)
  22. – Melodía prohibida (1933)
  23. – La cruz y la espada (1934)
  24. – Un capitan de Cosacos (1934)
  25. – Las fronteras del amor (1934)
  26. – The Adventurous Captain (El capitán aventurero, original title, 1939)
  27. – The Miracle Song (1940)
  28. – Melodies of America (Melodías de América, original title, 1941)
  29. – El pórtico de la gloria (1953)
  30. – I, Sinner (Yo pecador, original title, 1959)
  31. – Seguiré tus pasos (1966)

External links