The old Barrio Belem de Acampa is another old neighborhood whose chapel contains the remains of the ancient ceremonial site on which it stands. It’s one of the important central neighborhoods of Xochimilco much of which can be walked in a single afternoon.
The neighborhood seems indifferent as to whether its name is updated to the more modern, Belén. Relevant authorities take either position, so you’ll see it written both ways. Belem and Belén are simply the Spanish spellings for “Bethlehem.” Acampa though makes reference to the neighborhoods old basket-making tradition. The Náhuatl name could be translated as “place of reeds.”
The Chapel of the Child of Behtlehem is from the late 16th century. The main nave was built by Fray Francisco de Soto. The Plateresque elements of the façade were completed already in 1590. The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), notes that it was likely first built as an open chapel. This was then enclosed and the resulting structure dates to about 1758. Columns and old capitals resulted from the enclosure of the arches in the old façade. Visitors should take note of the delicately carved reliefs on the wooden entranceway door.
Next to the chapel are the remains of an older oratory from the 18th century. Within the chapel a 16th-century oil painting of the Nativity is of particular note. The altarpiece dates from 1870. The chapel underwent major restorations in 1823 and again in 1932. After the 1957 earthquake, the entranceway roof collapsed, and this was replaced.
The name above makes reference to the Niño de Belén. Like the more prominent Niñopan, this is one of the Child images highly revered across nearly all of Roman Catholic Xochimilco.
The Chapel of Belem de Acampa is just a few minutes walk from the equally compelling Santa Crucita Chapel. It’s also just 8-minutes walk from the light-rail station in Barrio San Pedro. Along the way, you’ll find all kinds of interesting things.