The Casino Español de México is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved early 20th-century buildings in the Historic Center. Today, the parts of the building above the street level host social and some cultural events. But it’s not a mere party and wedding venue. It’s home to a 19th-century social club made up mostly of Spanish immigrants and their descendents.
Beginning in the 19th century, Spanish Casinos opened as social venues for the Spanish diaspora. About 16 countries of the former Spanish empire plus the USA still host them. They’re only loosely affilated one to another.
Today, the Casino Español de México is a non-profit civil association. Founded in 1863, the organization provided a place for cultural development, social coexistence, and to build relationships with other cultural and social entities.
Over the course of the years prior to the 1905 building, the Casino held residence in the Palacio de los Condes de Santiago de Calimaya. Today that’s the Museum of Mexico City. Between 1869 and 1883, they occupied the Palacio de los Condes de San Mateo de Valparaiso. Headquarters of the Banco Nacional de México today, that residence indicates the importance of members to founding the institutions associated with modern banking.
Architect Emilio González began work on the building we see today in 1899. He got access to the site of the old Hospital del Espíritu Santo, an 18th-century hospital and church complex.
The new building opened in December of 1905 with an assembly held in the main hall, today known as the Hall of the Kings. In 1910, during the Centenary activities commemorating Mexican Independence, the same room hosted President Porfirio Díaz. During these festivities the City Council of Mexico City changed the names of several streets, including that directly outside the Casino to honor Isabel la Catolica.
The Casino expanded significantly between 1939 and 1951 with another structure built directly behind the first. This added a large salon, the main dining room, a canteen, bowling alley, game rooms, and the auditorium. The reading room and gym came to be during this time, too.
A giant work by Mexican stained-glass-artist, Kischi Hentschel Ariza, was installed in 2003 in tribute to the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The building today contributes an ongoing program of lectures, art exhibitions, book presentations, concerts and recitals, seminars and other events.
The club itself relates that “the building corresponds to the most mature phase of eclecticism in architecture.” They go further: “Eclecticism arises not only as a reaction of liberation from classicism and academia, but also as a response to the development of new construction techniques and materials.”
The club is perhaps most famous today for housing the private library. (See below.)
The Casino began a library in 1867 with a collection of some 446 volumes. This was greatly expanded beginning in 1898. The library was officially renamed and re-opened in 1996 by the children of Carlos Prieto Fernández de Llana (1898-1991). A prominent businessman and lawyer, he was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra. He'd actually paid for his law degree with earnings he'd made playing the violin. He also authored numerous books and articles on a wide range of subjects from music to mining and history. The family donated some 2,300 volumes to the current collection. Overall it includes some 14,000 volumes focused on Spanish Mexican relations, humanities, and social sciences. The archive also maintains the art collection of the building as well as other documents and artifacts related to the Casino Español de México. Hours: The library is open to the public weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México – Coordinación Nacional de Monumentos Históricos. Ficha del Catálogo Nacional de Monumentos Históricos Inmuebles número I-09-01022 . -. Disponible en: http://catalogonacionalmhi.inah.gob.mx/consulta_publica/detalle/11838 Abida Ventura, El Universal, 6 noviembre, 2013, Los Tesores Culturales de Casino Español https://archivo.eluniversal.com.mx/cultura/2013/los-tesoros-culturales-del-casino-espaniol-i%3E-963438.html