Irish-Mexican Brothers
Edmundo and Juan O'Gorman

By Edmundo Murray

From Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History by Jim Byrne, Philip Coleman and Jason King (eds.)
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO (forthcoming 2006)
With kind permission of the publisher.

Historian Edmundo O'Gorman (1906-1995) and architect Juan O'Gorman (1905-1982) were sons of the painter and mining engineer Cecil Crawford O'Gorman (1874-1943), who arrived in Mexico from Ireland in 1895, and Encarnación O'Gorman. Cecil was the grandson of Charles O'Gorman, who in the 1820s was the first British consul to Mexico city. Charles O'Gorman and his Mexican wife returned to the British Isles with their son John, who was to attend Eton and to go back to Mexico.

Edmundo O'Gorman
(Academia Mexicana de la Historia)

Edmundo O'Gorman was born in the city of Mexico on 24 December 1906. He graduated in the school of law in 1928 but later decided to research and teach history. In 1948 he obtained his PhD in philosophy and in 1951 in history. In 1932-1952 O'Gorman worked in the Mexican public records office, and contributed to Boletín del Archivo General de la Nación. He was appointed member of the Mexican academies of literature (1969) and of history (1972). Edmundo O'Gorman resigned to the later organization in protest against the use of concepts such as 'discovery of America', 'encounter of two worlds', and 'natural mixing'. For his outstanding research Edmundo O'Gorman was awarded the Mexican national literature award (1964), the history award Rafael Heliodoro Valle (1983), the Humanities Teaching Award of the Universidad Autónoma (1986), and the honoris causa doctorate of that university (1978).

Among Edmundo O'Gorman's works are Historia de las divisiones territoriales de México (1937), Fundamentos de la historia de América (1951), La supervivencia política novohispana (1961), México: el trauma de su historia (1977), La incógnita de la llamada 'Historia de los indios de la Nueva España', atribuida a Fray Toribio Molinia (1982), and Destierro de Sombras (1986). However, his most popular book is La invención de América (1958), in which O'Gorman opposed to the traditional concept of America's discovery an innovative reading of the primary sources from original perspectives. For his work with contemporary sources of Columbus and other conquistadors, Edmundo O'Gorman is often singled as one of the pioneers of post-colonial studies in Latin America.

Edmundo's brother was the famous painter, muralist, and architect Juan O'Gorman, born in Coyoacán on 6 July 1905. Juan O'Gorman graduated in 1927 in the school of architecture at Academia San Carlos. He entered the studio of Obregón, Tarditi & Villagrán García and later Obregón Santacilia.

Juan O'Gorman, Autorretrato (1950)

O'Gorman was one of the architects who worked on the reconstruction of Banco de México. In 1931 he frescoed the library of Azcapotzalco and in 1937 decorated and painted the murals of Mexico City's first airport. In 1940 he was engaged in the great mural of Gertrudis Bocanegra library, including scenes of Michoacán conquest, and the struggle for the independence from the Spanish rule. Juan O'Gorman's most important work was the painting of the Central Library in the campus of Universidad Autónoma. The works lasted from 1949 to 1953 and covered 4,000 square meters of historical scenes. Other important works include the Social Security Center, the International Bank in Reforma avenue, parks, theaters, museums, and private houses, most notably the painter Diego Rivera's "functional house."

Juan O'Gorman incorporated Mexican culture, history, and environment in his works. He studied the styles of Le Corbusier and Villagrán, and as a muralist he was a member of the group formed by Diego Rivera, Clemente Orozco, Pablo O'Higgins, and Rufino Tamayo.

- Johnston, Henry McKenzie. Missions to Mexico. A Tale of British Diplomacy in the 1820s. London: British Academic Press, 1992.
- Musacchio, Humberto. Gran Diccionario Enciclopédico de México Visual. México, 1989.

Copyright © ABC CLIO, 2005


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

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