The church of Santa María de la Natividad is the town church of rugged, mountainous Tetelpan in Álvaro Obregón. The church dates from the late 16th century although many changes have been made to the structure, floorplan, and other significant architectural elements. Parts of the original church are still within, but these are often overshadowed by changes made later by the Functionalist master architect, and painter, Juan O’Gorman in 1928. That project lasted through 1930.
The church began on the edge of the town cemetery. A small hermitage, the Christian priests began arriving simply to say the last rites for funerals and later for weekly masses and evangelization.
The sacristy we see today still bears the remains of a colonial mural painting. The apse, parts of the south wall, and the bell tower date from the 1930 remodeling. Likewise the brick and masonry buttresses were also added at that time. One can still see something of O’Gorman’s design in the archways, especially from inside. The main access doorway was changed to that on the north side of the building though. That more recent change broke with the 1928 plans. Today the outside east-facing entrance is a rectangular metal doorway some seven meters across.
Other modifications were made in 1980 when the tombs were removed from the atrium and the atrial wall was rebuilt. This wall deprives the town of the proper open plaza that serves as an important civic space in so much of post-Reforma Mexican society. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful town surrounding the Santa María de la Natividad church. One of ten original settlements in Álvaro Obregón, it’s also one of the oldest.