San Lorenzo Tezonco is one of the 15 original settlements of Iztapalapa. One of the oldest and most complex of these towns, its history is partly obscured by the giant Hacienda de San Nicolás Tolentino. The hacienda took up all of the site of the present neighborhood, and its headquarters, though in ruins, is still part of the public cemetery that bears the town’s name, too.
The church is named for San Lorenzo the Martyr. The Tezonco place-name comes from the Nahuatl word for tezontle, tetzontli, with the suffix “co” to indicate “place of.” The town is on the western end of the Sierra de Santa Catarina chain of volcanoes. On the north shore of the Xochimilco Lake, historically the town’s economy was closely tied to the chinampa agriculture that dominated the region.
The Iglesia de San Lorenzo Diácono y Mártir is most famous for the Chapel of El Pocito, and for the Lord of Health, Nuestro Señor de la Salud, honored there. The legend of the Lord of Health begins with a particularly nasty plague that ravaged much of the Valley of Mexico. Residents of Tezonco used the image of the local hermitage in the face of the illness. Miraculously, a spring of crystalline water began flowing from beneath an ahuehuete tree in front of their small church. People who drank from it were cured. The legend spread to towns including Tláhuac and as far away as Milpa Alta. Many sick were sent to drink the miraculous water of San Lorenzo Tezonco. The hermitage was demolished to build the current parish church, and the El Pocito Chapel covers the spring, even to this day.
The church was begun in 1855, although the project was to expand the original chapel, by adding an outdoor nave.
Today the center of the town offers a variety of historical attractions, especially around the central Plaza Juárez area. Many will visit the public cemetery, especially around the Day of the Dead. The cemetery grounds are all that remain of the once grand Hacienda de San Nicolás Tolentino. If you’re going, don’t miss the Mercado San Lorenzo Tezonco, directly west from the town center on Avenida Juárez/Calle Candelabro. The town is easily reached from Metro Tezonco on Metro Line 12.