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Magdalena de las Salinas was a town that reached its highest point in the early 19th century. At that time, the town boasted some 14 neighborhoods, among them Tula, Huautla, Texacoac, Moyotla Capoltitlan, Tepalcatitlan, and Tlatlacama. The colonias of today’s Mexico City emerged from these. The ancient town, one of the original settlements of Gustavo A. Madero, bore the name Coatlayauhcan meaning “place of the snake of fog.”
Like all of the neighborhoods today denoted as “de las Salinas,” this one began as a saltworks on the mudflats of the ancient north lakeshore. Dependents of Tlatelolco during the ancient period, the same communities passed the colonial period as towns subject to the Villa de Guadalupe.
The church we see today began as a small Franciscan chapel in the 16th century. This retains the large atrium used for outdoor mass and evangelization. It was likely much larger in the past. Rome secularized most of the properties of the orders in the 18th century, converting them to regular parish churches under a diocese and bishop. At that point, the archives of this church were partly moved to the Parish of Santa Ana.
The Santa María Magdalena de las Salinas church (pictured) retains its original main altarpiece although not much else from the colonial period. The altarpiece uses Solomonic-style columns to present a setting for oil paintings and sculptures depicting the Passion of Christ. The church is today part of the modern neighborhood of Panamericana. The town, minus its church, still sprawls north and east. It’s perhaps best known for hosting the important Autobuses del Norte bus station. In that immediate area are both the giant IMSS Trauma and Orthopedics Hospital, and the well-known CCH Vallejo High School. The town though stretches even as far east as the Avenida Insurgentes Norte at the Encuentro Fortuna shopping center.