José Gregorio Hernández

Venerable José Gregorio Hernández, OFS
Pintura Dr José Gregorio Hernández2.jpg
Physician, Venerable
Born October 26, 1864
Isnotú, Trujillo State, Venezuela
Died June 29, 1919(1919-06-29) (aged 54)
Caracas, Venezuela
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Feast June 29
Patronage Medical students, diagnosticians, doctors, medical patients

Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, MD, OFS (Spanish: [xoˈse ɣɾeˈɣoɾjo eɾˈnandes]) (October 26, 1864 – June 29, 1919) was a Venezuelan physician. Born in Isnotú, Trujillo State, he became a highly renowned doctor, more so after his death.[1]


In 1888 Hernández graduated as a medical doctor at Universidad Central de Venezuela, in Caracas. The Venezuelan government awarded him a grant to continue his studies in Europe. Hernández traveled to Paris, where he studied other fields of medicine such as: bacteriology, pathology, microbiology, histology, and physiology. Following his return to Venezuela, he became a leading doctor at the Hospital José María Vargas.

Between 1891 and 1916, Hernández dedicated himself to teaching, medicine, and religious practice. He sought priesthood in two occasions, but his fragile physical conditions would ultimately prevent him from achieving that status. He studied at the Monastery of Lucca in Italy for ten months in 1908. In 1913, he enrolled at the Latin American Pío School of Rome to continue the priestly career, but had to return to Venezuela for health reasons. Among his scientific publications are The Elements of Bacteriology (1906), About the Angina Pectoris of Malaric Origin (1909) and The Elements of Philosophy (1912).

Hernández treated the poor for free and even bought them medicines with his own money. One day in 1919, while bringing medicine to the home of one of his patients in Caracas, Hernández was struck by a car and killed.


After his death, Hernández' stature began to reach mythic proportions. People around the country started claiming to have been granted miracles after praying for his intercession to God.[1][2] At present, Hernández is commonly invoked as "José Gregorio" by both doctors and patients for healing purposes. He is also called upon for protection during overland journeys. Eventually, his name became known all over Latin America and Spain.

Statue of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández in Guacara, Venezuela

In 1949, Venezuelan Catholic Church officials began the process of determining whether or not Hernández was eligible for sainthood. The Vatican granted him the title of Venerable in 1985. The next step in the process for Hernández is that of beatification;[3] Pope Francis accepted a visit to Venezuela by President Nicolás Maduro and intended to beatify Hernández.[4] His remains are housed in La Candelaria Catholic Church in Caracas, Venezuela.[5]

He is, also, revered by Venezuela's alternative and syncretic religion the Cult of Maria Lionza.[2][6] Historian Steven Palmer also has drawn parallels between the Hernández cult and that of the assassinated Costa Rican physician and politician Ricardo Moreno Cañas.[7]

A private university in Maracaibo, Universidad Dr. José Gregorio Hernández (launched in 2003), is named for him.[8] In 2008 he was honoured with the naming of a Bolivarian Mission, Misión Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, dedicated to the health of Venezuelans with disabilities.[9] In 2011, Hernández' birthday, October 26, was declared a "day of national celebration".[10] On August 26, 2014, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Venezuela called on all Catholics to attend Mass and thank God "for the life and example of this great Venezuelan, with great hope and implore the grace of his speedy beatification" on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Hernández' birth (Sunday, October 26, 2014).[11]

Hernández is also an important folk figure and is commonly portrayed in naïve art.[12]


  • 1893 - Sobre el número de glóbulos rojos. Gaceta Médica de Caracas.
  • 1894 - Sobre angina de pecho de naturaleza paludosa. Gaceta Médica de Caracas.
  • 1910 - Lecciones de bacteriología. Gaceta Médica de Caracas.
  • 1910 - Lesiones anatomo–patológicas de la pulmonía simple o crupal. Gaceta Médica de Caracas.
  • 1910 - De la nefritis a la fiebre amarilla. Gaceta Médica de Caracas.
  • 1913 - Renuncia ante la Academia Nacional de Medicina. Gaceta Médica de Caracas.
  • 1918 - Nota preliminar acerca del tratamiento de la tuberculosis por el aceite de Chaulmoogra. Gaceta Médica de Caracas.
  • 1922 - Elementos de bacteriología. 2.ª edición: Caracas. El Cojo.
  • 1959 - Elementos de filosofía. 3.ª edición: Caracas. Bibliográfica Venezolana.
  • 1968 - Obras completas. Caracas. Universidad Central de Venezuela.


  1. ^ a b Fernández Juárez, Gerardo (2004). Salud e interculturalidad en América Latina: perspectivas antropológicas. Editorial Abya Yala. ISBN 9978-22-463-7 (in Spanish)
  2. ^ a b Dinneen, Mark (2001). Culture and customs of Venezuela, Greenwood Publishing Group, pp. 32-34. ISBN 0-313-30639-7
  3. ^ Neuman, William (1 October 2014). "Venezuelans Seek Sainthood For Beloved Folk Hero, José Gregorio Hernández". Huffington Post. Huffington Post Online. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  4. ^ "El Papa Francisco visitará Venezuela el próximo año para Beatificación de José Gregorio Hernández". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-08-20.
  5. ^ "Places of Worship in Caracas". City Walk. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  6. ^ Cahana, Kitra. "The Cult of Maria Lionza". Reportage by Getty Images. Getty Images Inc. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  7. ^ Palmer, Steven Paul (2003). From popular medicine to medical populism: doctors, healers, and public power in Costa Rica, 1800-1940. Duke University Press, p. 217. ISBN 0-8223-3047-4
  8. ^ (in Spanish), Universidad Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, Historia, accessed 30 May 2012
  9. ^, 17 March 2008, Venezuela Launches New Mission for Health of the Disabled
  10. ^ (in Spanish) El Nacional, 25 October 2011, Chávez decretó 26 de octubre Día de Júbilo Nacional por natalicio de José Gregorio Hernández
  11. ^ Savino, Jorge Uros. "Message from the President of the CEV with the 150th birthday of the venerable Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez Cisneros". Bishops Conference of Venezuela. Servicios Educativos C.A. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  12. ^ "La UCAB albergará exposición artística sobre José Gregorio Hernández". (in Spanish). 2017-03-24. Retrieved 2017-09-25.

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See also