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San Simon Tolnáhuac is recorded as one of the original settlements of Cuauhtémoc. The only other one officially is Tatelolco. Today, it’s a surprisingly leaf town surrounding a church and plaza of the same name. The contrast with Tlatelolco to the south is rather startling, though they share much of the same history.
The area is said to have been used as a communal farmland during most of the pre-Hispanic and colonial periods. The Nahuatl name can be translated to mean “among the reeds.” But it’s not well recorded during the ancient period. During the colonial period, it’s thought to have grown into a village along the Calzada Tenayuca, sometimes also called the Camina a Tolnáhuac. The Mendicants Bridge on the neighborhood’s east side reminds of this period.
By the 19th century, the area was more commonly being called “San Simón las Trancas.” This referred to the southside of the town, today south of Tlatelolco, where horses and donkeys were tethered. (Today, it’s the intersection of Avenida Guerrero with R. Flores Magon.)
In about 1873, farmland here was subdivided and renamed Cuitlahuac Ferrocarrilera, referring to the coming of the railroad to Tlatelolco. Workers from the railyards made up the majority of inhabitants. One can imagine the place’s atmosphere. It was an independent village all the way until 1928.
The current temple of San Simon Tolnáhuac was rebuilt on the site of a very old adobe structure. That was likely a visiting chapel for Franciscans from Tlatelolco. Most of what see today is of 20th-century handiwork, although the entranceway was preserved. A colonial era Christ figure is, according to legend, one of those brought by Hernán Cortés from Spain. (This claim is made by many small churches dating from the 16th century.)
For international visitors, the village is still a refreshing pause between Tlatelolco and the larger La Raza area to the north. It’s also served by the Mercado San Joaquín just across the way in Peralvillo.