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Santa Cruz Acalpixca is one of the 14 original settlements of Xochimilco. It’s today most famous for hosting the Xochimilco Archaeological Museum. This is practically on the landing of the Santa Cruz canal, all that remains of the town’s once entirely chinampa-farming past.
The town was founded by Xochimilca people, one of seven original Nahua tribes. Some of them are thought to have settled here on the slopes of Cuahilama hill in 1195 CE. The settlement is considered one of the oldest in Xochimilco. The town was known as “Atenco,” i.e.; “At the edge of the water.” In about the 1460 the name was changed to Acalpixa , i.e.; “place where canoes are watched over.” This refers to the town’s role watching over tribute being packed for shipment to the capital (Tenochtitlan).
The Church of Santa Cruz Acalpixca was originally a chapel of the Church of San Bernardino de Siena. It became a parish only in 1953. At the beginning of the 17th century, the town had only a small hermitage. By 1676, it was largely in ruins, damaged by years of humidity and earthquakes. A small annex was built in 1770, and the bell tower is believed to date from the 19th century. It’s recently been restored from damage suffered in the 2017 earthquake.
With 20 different neighborhoods, it’s no longer a small town. Many of the old chinampa lands are today among those neighborhoods. But, like in much of Xochimilco, agriculture is never too far away. Always important among the Xochimilca people, today the town specializes in the production of a crystallized sugar candy.
The former church atrium, called simultaneously, the Plaza Lázaro Cárdenas and the Parque Santa Cruz Acalpixca, is often turned over to a giant tianguis street market. Roughly between the actual market and the church, visitors will find the sweet colored candies for which the town is today most famous.