The Santa Ana Church is one of terrific significance. Technically it’s the temple of the old Santa Ana Atenantitech neighborhood. Atenantitech was the neighborhood of Tlatelolco that later came to be known as Peralvillo. Most residents though will tell you they live in La Lagunilla, the edges of which have never been entirely formalized.
The translation is simply “stone fence” referring to its position at the very north of the ancient island. By the late 18th century, it came to be a part of Peralvillo, the neighborhood that later had a famous horse-racing track. It was always a primarily indigenous neighborhood.
The church is most famous as the traditional baptismal site of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin who would later witness the Marian apparitions at Tepeyac, today’s Basilica de Guadalupe. It’s also celebrated as the 1796 site of the first mass of the independence insurgent, Mariano Matamoros.
The Peralvillo Avenue, to the east of the Church, was the colonial-era Real de Santa Ana. A royal road, it was the longest in the City. The church’s proximity to the Garita de Peralvillo also made the church well-known. The Garita marked the northern edge of the city and the beginning of the causeway to the north. People stopped here to give thanks not just for arriving safely from the north, but undoubtedly for passing the tax collectors too.
The exact date the church here came to be is not recorded. It was already mentioned in a chronicle from 1554 and published in a map a year later. Between 1550 and 1554 an existing hermitage is thought to have been revamped to result in the church.
The church was then used to receive new Viceroys as they entered Mexico City. Here they would exit their carriages to enter the City on horseback.
Somewhat unusually, the Church entrance is to the south. That corresponds to those of the Cathedral, the Temple of Santo Domingo, and the old Basilica of Guadalupe. It was an important processional route and this was the last stop within the City. The semicircular arch above bears a statue of Joachim, the husband of Saint Anne, the patron of the church.
The plaza of Santa Ana used to continue the atrium of the church in an L-shape. This was modified at the end of the 19th century. Today it’s still a pleasant place to find oneself after a Sunday stroll through the La Lagunilla tianguis.