El Barrio La Concepción Tlacoapa dates from the second half of the 16th century. The chapel was originally part of the Hospital of Santa María. It was a larger building just to the north of the nave and built with funds granted in 1595 and run by the Franciscan order. That partly explains the chapel’s unusual east-facing orientation. (Nearly all chapels in Old Xochimilco face west.)
The hospital received support over the centuries from a well-known ranch called “Tehutli” on the side of the volcano of the same name. This was in the town of Tulyehualco. Dedicated to farming goats, the entire income went to the hospital. The ranch was the property of the governors and indigenous people of Xochimilco. In 1708, the name was changed to the Hospital de La Concepción Tlacoapa.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the hospital went into decline. More and more people began to occupy the old building. This was the true beginning of the Tlacoapa neighborhood. Eventually, the hospital disappeared altogether as payments for maintenance and rent on the building simply stopped being made.
The temple, though, was entirely rebuilt in 1896. With a single nave and a tower of three bells, and a dome visible from the plaza out front, it’s a remarkably simple vision of the past. Inside, a sculpture of the Immaculate Conception of Mary stands out. Several Ecce Homo figures, Christ as a prisoner, offer excellent examples of sculpture in cane paste. International visitors will appreciate the elegance of the gardens in the former atrium. It’s quite a long plazuela.
The Náhuatl language name, Tlacoapa, means “place of water and cistus.” The more commonly named “rockrose” is widely seen along the canals here. Perhaps most unusual, El Barrio La Concepción Tlacoapa has nearly always used this Náhuatl name. Most residents will simply refer to the neighborhood as Tlacoapa.