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Mystery solved: “Señor Misterioso” is in fact a Venezuelan “saint”

SENOR MISTERIOSO,GLOW IN THE DARK,FIGURE

Patrick | CC BY-NC 2.0

Daniel Esparza - published on 01/22/18 - updated on 05/01/21

Granted the title of Venerable in 1985, Dr. José Gregorio Hernández is not too well known in non-Spanish-speaking countries.

Not even Google seems to know who “Señor Misterioso” really is. That might be one of the reasons why he’s been deemed as, precisely, “misterioso”. Some compare him to “the most interesting man in the world” (the former “Dos Equis” guy), and bloggers and social media users seem to be intrigued by his impeccable white glow-in-the-dark suit, fedora hat, perfectly well-groomed mustache, and seemingly expressionless facial rictus.

Most of the time, “Señor Misterioso” (a small figurine some people have been able to find offline, as Amazon only offers air fresheners featuring his image, with his hands invariably behind his back) is seen in pictures wandering around the world, as those who treasure the figure carry it with them when traveling, in order to (superstitiously) “bring danger and mystery to their mundane experience” (as read on the package of the “Señor Misterioso” action figure).

Needless to say, those who don’t know who “Señor Misterioso” really is just think of it as a “cool” object, some sort of hip dashboard figure to substitute for Elvis or the classic Hawaiian hula doll.

SENOR MISTERIOSO,GLOW IN THE DARK,DOLL
Sebastian Delmont | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

But “Señor Misterioso” is no mystery at all for those living in most Spanish-speaking countries, who would easily identify Venerable Dr. José Gregorio Hernández at first sight, and would treat the “Señor Misterioso” figurines quite differently.

Born in 1864 in a small town in the Andean state of Trujillo, Dr. José Gregorio Hernández was a Venezuelan physician, researcher and scholar who specialized in bacteriology, pathology, microbiology, histology, and physiology.

Some of his better known scientific publications are Elements of Bacteriology (1906), About the Angina Pectoris of Malaric Origin (1909), and an uncommon book on metaphysics, The Elements of Philosophy (1912).

SENOR MISTERIOSO,JOSE GREGORIO HERNANDEZ
PD

“José Gregorio” (as he is commonly referred to by his devotees) once tried to become a Carthusian monk. He spent ten months in the Monastery of Lucca, in Italy, in 1908, but had to leave because of his fragile physical conditions and poor health.

As he returned to Venezuela, he joined the Secular Francisan Order and eventually became the leading doctor at the (then) main hospital of Caracas, where he would treat the poor for free, and would buy them medicines with his own money, also paying for their treatments when needed.

José Gregorio was granted the title of Venerable by the Vatican in 1985, and both doctors and patients often ask for his intercession in health-related matters, be they mysterious or not. He was beatified in Caracas on April 30, 2021.

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