Photos: Catedrales e Iglesias/Cathedrals and Churches, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
The Buen Tono Church is technically Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe). The temple is in the San Juan Moyotlan neighborhood of the Centro Histórico. Built in the early 20th century, it’s not a well known church. But due to its proximity to the San Juan Market, it is one that is frequently passed and often questioned. Guests often believe that this church must be related to the Basilica of San José y Nuestra Señora del Sagrado Corazón just across the street and facing the same plaza. But the two are very different organizations.
The site was formerly the San Juan de la Penitencia Convent. Founded in 1591, it was intended to formalize a hostel built by the residents indigenous to the neighborhood. The Plaza de San Juan had already been established. The Poor Clare nuns had been invited by the neighborhood, and they arrived on June 18, 1598.
In 1867, the Reform Laws, passed prior to the brief reign of Maximiliano in 1857 went fully into effect. That meant that the nuns were evicted. In 1890, the French businessman, Ernesto Pugibet and his wife Guadalupe Portilla bought the land. His six-year old cigar factory, Buen Tono, had taken off and he demolished the old convent. The Plaza de San Juan and the surrounding area are still sometimes referred to as the Buen Tono plaza.
Pugibet entrusted the entire project to the engineer, Miguel Ángel de Quevedo. He built the factory warehouse on the site of the present San Juan Market. By the beginning of the 20th century, the old temple of San Juan de la Penitencia was demolished and Quevedo designed and built the new temple for the factory workers and managers. Dedicated to the Virgin Guadalupe, it was named to honor Pugibet’s wife. It was officially opened in 1912. Quevedo’s design betrays something of his familiarity with French styles of the period, as he had studied in France years before.
By 1933, the original warehouse was converted to the San Juan Market. The Buen Tono Church is still believed to be the only temple in the country referred to frequently by the name of a manufacturer.