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The Pueblo San Francisco Culhuacán may be one of the most difficult to discover of Coyoacán’s seven original villages. Historically, it’s part of Culhuacán. Most of that very ancient town is across the Canal Nacional, the better part of it in neighboring Iztapalapa.
The “place of colhua people,” it’s one of the oldest settlements in the Valley of Mexico, certainly one of the oldest that’s been continuously inhabited. It was an important altepetl (i.e.; city-state), founded by Toltec people, at least according to the oldest sources. Architectural evidence suggests it’s even older.
The Mexica conquered the territory in 1347. And thereafter it was a tributary town, and one that contributed the bulk of the blood-red tezontle stone of which Tenochtitlan was built.
San Francisco Culhuacán became one of its 18 recognized barrios. This one happened to be west of the old Huey Apantli, that is, the National Canal. The tiny barrio carried on over the centuries and only later became part of Coyoacán. It remained very much an agricultural village until well into the 20th century.
But that historical fact explains the organic layout of the town’s oldest streets. Like the other original villages, its very footprint sets it apart. By the 1940s though, the town’s long fought for agricultural lands were almost entirely covered over by urban neighborhoods and newer communities. Newer roads bisected and erased many of the older roads and trails. And today, only the oldest residents still recognize their ancestral homeland across the canal. They still participate in the religious festivals there too.
While the old church is no longer there, the Catholic center of the town is likely not the replacement Church of San Francisco de Asis, in the neighborhood’s east. A much stronger contender is actually the ornate, and even newer San Judas Tadeo chapel across the street in the newer neighborhood (Ampliación San Francisco Culhuacán).
The town is still subdivided into three old barrios. These correspond only somewhat with the present-day colonias.
The Barrio Magdalena Culhuacan is the colonia north of San Francisco. The present day colonia also includes the Barrio San Juan Bautista in its southwest corner. The Barrio Santa Anita is the western portion of San Francisco Culhuacan (as shown in the map). Their small chapel on the calle Sta. Ana is recognized by INAH as a historical monument. It was likely built in the 19th century.
The most notable feature in the Pueblo San Francisco Culhuacán may well be its old cemetery. Still with statues in the entranceway niches (pictured above), it’s a fascinating and walled tribute to the town’s deepest history.
An early 1950s architectural marvel reaches for the sky...
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