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The Santa Martha Chapel is the center of the Barrio de Santa Martha in Villa Milpa Alta. It’s a parish church that often takes the lead in the Carnival and other annual religious festivities. These can make Villa Milpa Alta seem like a rollicking local center of culture despite it sleepy rest-of-the-year.
The first stone of the chapel here was laid way back in 1529. This was after an emissary from the Spanish crown, Juan de Saucedo, announced the “legal recognition of all the local peoples’ land, mountains, hills, stones and waters. The provisional chapel was, even then, dedicated to Santa Martha. Plans were already made for a larger church on the same site. Santa Martha was considered the founder of all the towns of Malacachtepec Momoxco, the Milpa Alta of today.
However, the laying of the cornerstone actually took place in the old Santa Marthazulco. This refers to a location southwest of the Teuhtli volcano. The church we see here today likely dates from the 17th century.
Unfortunately, there is no subsequent record of the building or parish. The clock dates from 1925. The church is built on a well-preserved rectangular atrium with an entranceway in the Neo-Classical style. The rectory, just north of the church, dates from the 20th century.
That well preserved atrium is the site of outdoor masses, but also of the beginnings of many of the annual festivals. It’s for these that the church is so well-known.