Coapa is a giant historic area in Mexico City's south east. Today, people know the area mostly as a car-friendly area of giant shopping centers and some big-box retailers. This can make it difficult to visit for those lacking a car. But for the determined, the area is well-served by public transit and buses.
Coapa covers the territory of three giant haciendas. These dominated the area throughout the colonial period. Just to the west, the ancient town of Santa Úrsula Coapa later lent its name to the haciendas of San José de Coapa, San Antonio de Padua Coapa, and San Juan de Dios de Coapa.
Over the course of the 19th century, owners subdivided all three to make a mosaic of smaller ranches and farms. Many of their names survive in the neighborhood and street names of today. But across the area, even today, people will still include the name "Coapa" in writing their addresses. It's an important part of the local identity.
The Nahuatl name could be translated as "place of snakes" or "nest of snakes." Undoubtedly this was due to the abundance of the animals in this part of the ancient valley. It's a reminder of just how close Xochimilco is.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the San Antonio hacienda was still an important stop on any trip from Coyoacán or San Ángel and San Agustín de las Cuevas. Today, much of the Coapa Area overlaps with the Canal Nacional area. The canal serves as the eastern border of the area.
Most international visitors will still arrive for the shopping centers. But the long canal recreational area, as well as the abundance of markets selling non-shopping mall food, make it pleasant mix of two different worlds.
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