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San Juan Mixcoac was known during the colonial period as San Juan Evangelista Malinaltongo. Today it’s more often named with reference to the Mixcoac ruins which are a few blocks west. But the colonial town is one of the original settlements of Benito Juárez, too.
The center of the town was once here before the temple of San Juan Evangelista and Santa María de Guadalupe. The town once included many of the surrounding neighborhoods, and the Parque Hundido, too.
The Parish Church is a striking 17th century temple. It’s at first glance, most notable for the quarry stone facade. The same stone is also used extensively inside.
For centuries, the church guarded the neighborhood’s primary source of fresh water, a fountain still visible in many of the earliest photographs. The church is colonial in style and belies a treasure trove of important artworks inside. An oil painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe and a sculpture of St. John the Evangelist are just among the most notable. The altar piece is a essentially neoclassical, and numerous wall paintings reach nearly from floor to ceiling.
Ceilings are adorned with saints in relief surrounded by golden specks, and these are made with wood and set off by multiple impressive chandeliers.
One of the most beautiful in the area, the Plaza Valentín Gómez Farías is the former church atrium. In fact, today it’s divided not just from the church, but marks the boundary between the neighborhood of San Juan, and the church’s neighborhood, Extramadura Insurgentes.
It’s named for a memorable 19th century liberal politician. He lived on the square in an 18th-century house which is today the Dr. José María Luis Mora Research Institute. A Conacyt research center, the institute specializes in history, social sciences, and international cooperation. The Mora Institute also hosts the area’s FCE bookstore and a library with an extensive book and document collection.
The plaza was also home to Ireneo Paz, the grandfather of Octavio Paz. This building is today a Dominican Monastery of the Order of Preachers Santa Catalina. They offer guided tours, and often sell food from the monastery kitchen.