The Los Reyes Hueytilac neighborhood is one of Coyoacán’s seven original settlements. It’s long been known more simply as Los Reyes, (i.e.; The Kings) but the old Nahuatl name is making a comeback.
The name, Hueytilac (sometimes Quiahuac), could be translated as “in the great black waters.” That should remind us that this is a very old settlement indeed. Some artifacts date back to a period between 2400 and 200 B.C.E. This is contemporary with the earliest settlements in Cuicuilco and Copilco. It was an important zone of chinampas, where crops were grown on the floating gardens seen in Xochimilco and Tláhuac today.
Los Reyes, during the Colonial period and right into the 20th century, was long known for the fervor of religious celebrations. These centered around the church, Parroquia de los Santos Reyes y el Señor de la Misericordia (The Holy Kings and Lord of Mercy Church). A temple here was completed in the 16th century. It began as an open-air chapel known as the Templo de los Santos Reyes.
That church was built over a ceremonial space used prior to the arrival of the Spanish. This is said to have been a small covered area with a stage for receiving crowds. In the 18th century, the open air chapel saw modifications to reflect the Baroque style of that later time. It was then integrated into a larger complex, although outdoor services were still being held in the 20th century.
The church was thoroughly remodeled again between 1943 and 1954. Inside, one can see stained glass windows depicting Saint Ana, Saint Joaquin, Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, the Lord Jesus, Saint Martha, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. A painting by Joannes de Meza dates from 1727 and depicts the Adoration of the Kings. A Señor de las Misericordias figure made of wood and corn paste is also very highly regarded.
But the church may be most famous for the entryway floral arches. There’s long been a rivalry between churches in Coyoacán to bedeck the local church with the most attractive of these. International guests will also want to check out the winding streets and seeming endless curiosity of Los Reyes Hueytilac. Like La Candelaria a bit further south, it’s a fascinating little village in the City, and one that could never be recreated today.