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Candelaria de los Patos is a historical town and neighborhood centered around the Candelaria Purificación de Nuestra Señora Church in today’s Venustiano Carranza. A church has been recorded on the site since 1580, and while a simple structure, the statue of Christ inside has moveable arms in order to confer blessings on those who visit. The exterior of the church was extensively remodeled in 1924.
Prior to the Spanish conquest, the area had been an island and wetland, prone to epidemics, and widely considered not the best place to live. As Lake Texcoco slowly gave way to dry land and city, it was for some long time a popular duck hunting area. As chronicler José María Marroqui put it :
“Women were the people who engaged in the nightly traffic [in ducks]. They went into the city at about 7 p.m., crying out about their merchandise with a special shout for all to hear. Almost always, they all sold all their ducks and then to return to their homes, they’d go not individually, but all together to a previously determined place to avoid assaults, which they sometimes suffered, and for greater security some male relations would come to meet them.
Marroqui noted that by the end of the 19th century the trade of ducks had concluded and the boats were moved to the neighborhood then called Tultenco Resurrección, today’s colonia Paulino Novarro.
The area surrounding the church was greatly expanded to serve as a cemetary during the “Matlazahatl Epidemic” of 1737. This was because it was far from the city and the number of deceased was said to exceed available burial sites in the city.
Another chronicler, one Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, related in detail the neighborhood’s overcrowding and misery when he visited in 1869.
After crossing the Soledad de Santa Cruz bridge, one is lost in a labyrinth of dirty and infected alleys. Everything announces that one has entered a region of fever and hunger. The great neighborhood houses are old and dilapidated. In the many, narrow and dark houses, entire generations of miserable people are crammed. The streets are not only deserted but unclean, the atmosphere is suffocating, great holes paved in stone during the time of the viceroys are now filled with a muddy water and the black exhales the deadly miasmas. Nearby, between the dumps and the filth, in small meadows insubstantial quelites [herbs] grow with exuberance. These are cooked with simple water, and with some tortillas, provide the daily meal of these hungry tribes.
It was to remain largely unchanged for nearly 100 years.
In 1963, the City Regent, Ernesto P. Uruchurtu visited Candelaria de los Patos. He ordered the closure of the pulquerías and announced that the old neighborhood would be replaced with apartment buildings. The demolition began in 1966 and nearly the entirety of the neighborhood soon disappeared.
Just outside the neighborhood, the former and daunting Lecumberri Prison became the General National Archive in 1980.
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