José Mojica

José Mojica
Fray Mojica.jpg
Crescenciano Abel Exaltación de la Cruz José de Jesús Mojica Montenegro y Chavarín

(1895-09-14)14 September 1895
Died 20 September 1974(1974-09-20) (aged 79)
Nationality Mexican
Other names Fray José de Guadalupe
Mojica, OFM
Occupation Opera singer, Actor, Friar, Largo High School Student
Years active 1947–1974 (religious)
1930–1966 (actor)
1919–1940 (opera singer)
Organization Franciscan

Fray José de Guadalupe Mojica [mohe-cah] (14 September 1895 – 20 September 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

Cover of the Chilean magazine Ecran N°133 made by the Chilean cartoonist Raúl Manteola.

Born in San Gabriel, Jalisco, Mojica was raised in a coffee and sugar plantation community until the age of six, after his step-father Francisco died. He never knew his real father. When his mother's extended family suffered financial challenges, they moved with limited means to Mexico City where he studied at the Academy of San Carlos and later attended the National School of Agriculture.[1]

Mojica wrote about the Revolution and Counter Revolution, the closing of the military academy due to the Mexican Revolution armed conflict, and his personal struggle from these events, in his book "I, a Sinner".[2] This experience led him to find his true calling. He began taking private voice lessons while studying at the National Conservatory of Music of Mexico.[2]

While at the Conservatory, Mojica also developed skills in drama and displayed a particular gift for languages, there mastering English, Italian and French. He learned to play the guitar and Mexican songs and practiced dance, athletics and horse riding.[2] He would eventually begin working as an operatic tenor at the Teatro Ideal. On 5 October 1916 he debuted at the Teatro Arbeu, playing 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 entered World War I, funded with $500, Mojica moved to New York City and worked petty jobs before joining an opera company. In his spare time, he attended performances of Enrico Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera.[1] The famed Caruso, having met Mojica in 1919, was impressed with Mojica's vocal skills and helped him obtain a contract with the Chicago Civic Opera company.[3] He debuted on 22 November and performed the minor role of Lord Arthur Bucklaw in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor that same year,[1] an opera loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.[4]

While in Chicago he landed secondary roles, with his career slowly gaining momentum in 1921 when playing 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 attended Mojica's rehearsals where Mojica performed his first performance on 30 December, singing 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]

Caruso made two additional introductions that impacted his career. In the first. Caruso recommended Mojica to Edison to become one of Edison's Three Tenors. The second Caruso sending letters of introduction along with Mojica to Hollywood where young voices were needed to sing in 'talkies'. Going to California, and except for individual trips back to Chicago and New York for singing engagements, his career continued in films in Hollywood and throughout Latin America.

In 1933, after leaving Chicago, Mojica made a trip across the Atlantic, singing at the Mexican Embassy in Berlin and performing in Italy and Egypt.[5] He also performed at the Chicago Opera 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[6] and the Victor Talking Machine Company.[7]

By the time Mojica recorded for Edison in 1925, he had become an important figure at the Chicago Opera, moving into principal roles. He left Edison and joined the Victor roster in 1927 and 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 to become a priest. Like Edison, Mojica would eventually become completely deaf.

His popular musical recordings show an attractive lyrical voice being used with skill and imagination in songs such as Júrame, composed for Mojica by María Grever, released by Victor in 1927.[8] 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. To this end, he began to court film Directors, one of whom was King Vidor. When Vidor learned that Mojica wanted to build a hacienda with a music salon in which to 'showcase his talent', he introduced Mojica to the architect John Byers who had recently finished designing Vidor's home. Mojica told everyone he was building his mother a "replica of the hacienda her family had lost during secularization." That so irritated Byers that he removed the hacienda from the list of homes he'd designed. The Hacienda Mojica in Santa Monica Canyon where he later lived with his mother, Dona Virginia, was in an idyllic setting on Santa Monica creek with neighbors Leo Carrillo and Dolores del Río as well as the remnants of the original Mexican Land Grant family. This home not only served as Mojica's "showcase" but through his constant entertaining it quickly became the center of Hollywood's Latino actors community. "Mojica's Rancho on Santa Monica Creek was a place where we could relax and be ourselves, away from Hollywood's expectations of players under contracts."

This home provided him with 'a stage' in which to perform and garner attention from the nearby Studios. Mojica 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,[9] written by Agustín Lara, in the 1941 film Melodías de América.[10] 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.[11]

Antigua Villa Santa Monica

Antigua Villa Santa Monica is located at San Miguel de Allende, a city and municipality in the state of Guanajuato in North-Central Mexico.[12] This estate was built in the 17th century with Spanish mining wealth when the nearby mountains were rich with silver. Abandoned at the time of the Mexican Revolution, the villa sat in ruins for years; Mojica acquired it in 1933 and rebuilt it for his mother, whose health was declining. Intrigued by the beauty of this community, Mojica entertained lavishly at Villa Santa Monica (named after his hacienda in California.) It was his joy to introduce his professional friends to the beauty of Colonial City and his guests included composers, writers, opera stars, actors and painters. Mojica envisioned an artistic enclave for San Miguel. Guests from the artistic community included María Félix, Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz, Gary Cooper, John Ford, John Huston, Pedro Infante, Agustín Lara, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Vargas and John Wayne to this villa. Today, some trees on the property retain the nameplates of the celebrities who planted them.[13] Fate stepped into the picture when Mojica met two young Americans travelling across Mexico on a train and invited them to visit him in San Miguel. They did, and they returned to found Belles Artes and the Instituto Allende. Today, Mojica's cultural mecca vision for the city is rewarded by San Miguel de Allende recognizing him a Distinguished Citizen and his former home on Parque Juarez being operated as Hotel Villa Santa Monica, ([14] a luxurious B&B on a street named Padre Mojica.[13] The Antigua Villa Santa Monica became a prestigious hotel in the mid 1940s after the death of his mother.

The death of his mother in 1942 led him to reconsider his life. Two years later, he gave up his professional career and joined the Franciscan Order in Peru, distributing his estate mainly to the religious order. But first he endowed an orphanage in San Miguel.

Religious life

Even after retiring from acting, Mojica periodically performed to support laudable charitable causes.[5] Following his career he left for Cuzco, Perú, entering 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 afflicted with temporary deafness, he was prompted by his superiors to write his autobiography, putting a halt to his singing. He finished his memoir, Yo pecador... (I, a Sinner) 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 lost his hearing entirely and became 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 79th birthday.[5]

Notable recordings

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. ^ a b c d e f g "Escritores del Cine Mexicano Sonoro UNAM - Universidad Nacional – MOJICA, José Fray José de Guadalupe". (Spanish)
  2. ^ a b c "Fundación José Guillermo Carrillo – Biography and music archives for José Mojica". (Spanish)
  3. ^ a b c d " – José Mojica biography by I. S. Mowis".[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ Fisher, Burton (2005). Lucia di Lammermoor. Opera Journeys Publishing. ISBN 1-930841-79-5
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Arkiv Music – José Mojica article".
  6. ^ "Three Edison Tenors – Giuseppe Anselmi * Alessandro Bonci * José Mojica". Archived from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings – José Mojica (tenor vocal)".
  8. ^ Júrame, sung by José Mojica on YouTube
  9. ^ Second Hand Songs – Solamente una vez, first performance in the film Melodías de América (1941).
  10. ^ Solamente una vez, clip of the film Melodías de América on YouTube
  11. ^ Second Hand Songs – Solamente una vez versions
  12. ^ "Antigua Villa Santa Mónica website". Archived from the original on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  13. ^ a b "San Miguel Hotels – Antigua Villa Santa Mónica". Archived from the original on 12 November 2017. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Yo pecador on YouTube
  16. ^ – One Mad Kiss (El precio de un beso, original title, 1930)
  17. ^ – Cuando el amor ríe (1930)
  18. ^ a b – 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