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San Sebastián Xoco is one of ten original settlements in Benito Juárez. It’s one of the least well-known. Suffering the double indignity of the Metro and the Shopping Center, many City residents mistakenly believe it’s in Coyoacán.
The old village of Xoco is dated as far back as 1300 CE. But archaeological excavations at a site in the neighborhood have revealed the remains Teotihuacan-style homes and buildings. Those were dated to between 225-550 CE, some 900 years earlier. The Nahuatl name means “place of fruit,” and likely refers to the area’s history as an orchard even well before the Spanish.
By the 18th century, the town was dominated by the Hacienda de Xoco. That lasted until the neighborhood was demarcated in 1908.
The Chapel of San Sebastián Mártir is caddy-corner from the parish cemetery, although the cemetery dates only from the 20th century. The chapel was built in 1663 and was a Franciscan project intent on evangelizing the area.
The façade still bears a small niche with a sculpture of Saint Sebastian. But the overall church has been modified numerous times. The atrial wall now seems to frequently surround a parking lot.
International visitors are most likely to discover the chapel on a walk from the Metro to the Cineteca Nacional. That walk takes less than 15 minutes. But understanding the ancient history of San Sebastián Xoco, now you’ll know why the streets are so narrow and crooked.