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Barrio San Esteban Tecpanpan, Xochimilco

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San Esteban Tecpanpan
Photo: Pabliuxvelazquez on Wikimedia Commons.

San Esteban Tecpanpan, the Barrio San Esteban, is one of the 17 Barrios Originarios, the oldest in Xochimilco. San Esteban is one of what are known locally as the Cuatro Barrios, i.e.; The Four Neighborhoods. The others are La Guadalupita, San Lorenzo Tlaltecpan and San Diego Tlalcozpan. The faithful from these four barrios take part in a pilgrimage, with lots of fireworks, to the Church of Xaltocan, often referred to as the second most important church in Xochimilco.

The neighborhoods are partly delineated by the Tecpanpan, Ayahualtenco and Xilopan canals. That tells you much about its history. Life here has always been part and parcel of Xochimilco’s agriculture and fishing. The Náhuatl name translates, roughly, as “the place of the palace,” or “place of the royal house”.

The San Esteban Chapel of today dates from the 16th century. It very likely sits atop an ancient ceremonial center. The vault actually collapsed during the Mexican Revolution. This was restored only in 1959 and again in 1972. The church holds an important carved wooden sculpture of San Esteban from the 18th century. There’s also a recognized sculpture of the Virgen de los Dolores, the Virgin of Pains, also carved in wood.

The celebration of Saint Steven the Martyr takes place on December 26 each year. Residents are, less commonly today, known as piedreros, i.e.; “stoneworkers,” because in Christian tradition Saint Steven is said to have died by stoning.

The Plaza San Esteban, sometimes referred to as La Plazuela to distinguish it from the street of the same name, is small and quaint like the neighborhood itself. The street is crooked, but flowers are abundant on just about every side.

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