San Miguel Topilejo is one of the 12 original settlements in Tlalpan. The town center provides an exciting immersion into the experience of small-town life all within a compact few blocks. But it’s all surrounded by some of the most inviting natural and agricultural territory anywhere in Mexico City.
The town market reaches the atrium of the San Miguel Arcángel Church on most days. That’s the visual center of the church and it’s surrounded by street after street of thriving commercial activitiy. There’s enough food for the entire area. To not visit the market is to miss the town entirely.
The town name, Topilejo, derives from the Nahuatl word topilan. It gets translated as “one who carries the precious baton,” or alternatively “place with abundance of sticks or staves.”
Topilejo was likely founded more than 900 years ago. It’s thought to have been first settled by small groups of migratory Xochimilca peoples, likely from the state of Morelos.
By the 7th century when seven Nahuatlaca tribes reached the southern shores of the lake, most of Tlalpan was occupied by Xochimilca and Tepaneca peoples. It’s believed that by 1517 some Acolhua peoples had established a more formal town. Thus, when the Spanish were more firmly in control, Topilejo is said to have been a refuge for Acolhua, Xochimilca, and Anahuacale peoples.
The center of San Miguel Topilejo is about 15 minutes ride from the Cuernavaca Railroad Bikeway. But people visit the village year round for the agricultural and food festivals. The May 8th festival of Saint Michael is especially impressive, and nearly the entirety of September is devoted to a corn festival.
Strolls around the center, even in the off-season, have a lot to offer. The town is also virtually surrounded by eco-tourism and agricultural tourist facilities. It’s often visited together with San Mateo Xalpa and San Francisco Tlalnepantla.