The Barrio San Cristóbal Xallan is a favorite with international visitors because it covers a few small not-always connected islands. The Venetian-style neighborhood offers a cavalcade of whimsy and color in just a few blocks. For those en route to the boat launches, it’s a pleasure to find them even if you get lost. And someone is always nearby to show you the way.
The names Xallan comes from Nahuatl meaning “in the sand,” or “a very sandy place.” The one boat launch, Salitre, is one of the few to offer regular, collective-style, bus-like service. This is mostly for locals, though you can catch a colorful trajinera here too. It’s one of the oldest continually operating boat launches in Xochimilco.
The neighborhood has its origins in ancient times, when it was known as “Xallan.” The Franciscans arrived early and rededicated the barrio to Saint Christopher. The Franciscans are said to have ordered a sculpture of St. Christopher in pine, and they specified that he was to be carrying an oar in tribute to the Xochimilca people. This was to have decorated a much earlier chapel of which little is known. Part of it is likely enclosed within the base of the tower.
The present chapel dates only from 1902 and was completed finally in 1938. The entranceway is flanked by two stone half-pillars. The façade culminates with a cement cross and the single body bell tower holds two bells. The interior is elongated and reduced, with a single nave, three groin vaults, and one barrel vault. Several carved wooden sculptures stand out. A carved wooden figure of Christ is on the left side of the nave and dates from the 17th century. A Virgin of the Sorrows is also from the 17th century. The statue of San Cristóbal is on the main altar. From the 17th century, it’s 1.40 meters high and was restored only once. The Crucifix is from the 18th century.
The Plazuela along calle Dalia opened in 1976. It’s been a popular neighborhood meeting point ever since. The Barrio San Cristóbal neighborhood begins just east of the San Bernardino Temple, and the chapel is just across a few footbridges. Walking from the light rail takes a bit more than 15 minutes. There’s a lot to see along the way.