San Juan Tepenahuác is a small town in Milpa Alta and one of the alcaldía’s 12 original settlements. Bordering Mexico State to the east, it’s one of the least visited, and far flung of pueblitos.
The church building is of a single nave topped by a continuous half-barrel vault supported on pilasters. Decoration is very simple with just a few columns and a presbytery.
Within, visitors will find a small altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The main altar bears an image of John the Baptist. On the right, a pulpit bears an image of the Immaculate Conception. A fair amount of legend surrounds this image. It was donated by a couple whose daughter had been devoted to it prior to her death.
Perhaps even more famous is a tale that beneath the church a coyote is buried. (Some versions of the legend have it that there are four coyotes buried here) The animal was killed during the church’s construction and if it is ever removed the town of San Juan Tepenahuác will grow and grow. Is it a curse? You’ll have to decide when you visit. To date, it’s one of the least populous towns in the region.
The remarkable outdoor atrium contains a very old stone cross.
The town of San Juan Tepenahuác was only integrated into Mexico City in 1935. Public services and communication greatly increased thereafter. Nopale cactus cultivation took off and for many years the town was most famous for the fair celebrating the cactus.
Today the feeling of the town is very much of a mountain village. Views of the surrounding mountains are never far off. In fact, the name Tepenahuác, means in Nahuatl, “Near the mountain.”
Sources cited on this page:
Turimexico: Historia de la Delegación Milpa Alta, Ciudad de México