Easily one of the city’s most vibrant and active cultural centers, La Casa del Risco has a history as deep and interesting as anything in its utterly charming and many-layered neighborhood. It begins in the 16th century with Dominican friars founding the San Jacinto Church on the same square.
The Carmelite brothers who arrived somewhat later didn’t have permission to convert the people of the area, so they instead made a garden on the banks of the Magdalena River, and legend has it that a great rivalry grew up between the Dominicans and the Carmelites. When the Carmelites began building their own convent at San Angelo, near the Desierto de los Leones, the Dominicans tore down their fences every night.
Eventually the Dominicans left and the Carmelites took over their land and buildings. From the 18th century onward, the area was called San Ángel, and the Colegio was dedicated to Santo Ángelo.
The Casa del Risco was early on inhabited by one Captain Don Manuel de León. The head of the Royal Mint of New Spain, in 1750 he purchased the building and rehabbed it. Prior to this, the building is assumed to have been in the hands of the Dominicans, and probably the carmelites. The titles to the property essentially begin after 1774. Very little is known prior to that year.
By the 19th century the building had been converted into apartments despite its long list of noteable occupants. Put up for sale in its entirety in 1931, it was now to be considered a historical colonial monument and thus protected by the federal government. By 1933, Don Isidro Fabela acquired the famous Casa del Risco, and he took up the task of restoring the property.
In 1958, Fabela and his wife donated property along with furniture, paintings, sculptures, applied arts, and a massive library and archives. It was the first museum donated by a single person.
Today it represents an outstanding collection of art works, and a formidable archive. Seven permanent galleries represent primarily Baroque artworks, along with an impressive collection of European portraiture and landscape painting. With a cultural center as active as this one, there’s always something new to see, from materials related to the ongoing workshops and lectures, to exciting artifacts that result from interaction with the larger community.