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San Lucas Evangelista, Iztapalapa

Photos: Zel Poulain, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The San Lucas Evangelista Church is a grand Baroque church at the middle of Modern and Colonial history. It’s stands at the edge of the Cuitláhuac Gardens where the earliest Spanish invaders waited en route to meeting the Emperor Moctezuma in 1519. As such, it’s been an important church for a very long time.

Today, the church is celebrated for the indigenous woodcarvings surrounding the main entranceway. There are details such as these nearly throughout. And though from the inside, it’s rather more modest than the outside might suggest, it’s a remarkable place to visit.

Saint Luke’s began recording baptisms in 1664. The historical record indicates that another chapel here had been performing the same rites since the mid-16th century. A treasure trove of art and history, Saint Lucas is thus also the patron saint of all of Iztapalapa. The Cathedral, though, is the Señor de la Cuevita National Sanctuary a few blocks to the south of the Center already on the lower slopes of the Cerro de Estrella.

The parish maintains the smaller chapel of “San Luquitas.” Built in the 1940s, it’s a stone’s throw away at the end of the Calle Ignacio Comonfort within the Barrio San Lucas. It’s the focal point for much of the celebration of the Feast of Saint Lucas. But the chapel also allows the people of the community to better integrate with the other seven chapels and their respective neighborhoods. Together, these are the most prominent players in the observations of the Semana Santa passion plays that defined so much of Iztapalapa life since the 19th century. The Passion Plays culminate on the slopes of the Cerro de la Estrella and further illustrate the deep syncretism between the ancient and modern periods.

The San Lucas Evangelista Church today inhabits one of few quiet corners in Iztapalapa’s thriving center city. It’s a remarkable church, but also a tribute to an ancient, noble, and persevering people.

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