Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Original Villages | Gustavo A. Madero: San Bartolo Atepehuacan, A Pueblo That Has Survived Radical Changes

Prelude | The Importance of Delegación Gustavo A. Madero in the History of Mexico, and the Challenge In Getting There  


As we have mentioned various times in our accounts of our Ambles around Mexico City, one of our goals is to get to every one of it sixteen delegations (boroughs). We have actually achieved that goal and been to all sixteen, but to some we have only managed a single visit, some with just the goal of finding a manageable way to get there. These delegaciones are mostly around the periphery of Mexico City and hence more or less difficult to reach from our apartment in Coyoacán, geographically in the center of the city. But we continue to want to visit as many as possible of what were the original indigenous pueblos in each of these delegaciones.
MCA Note: For the record, in 2016, the delegaciones were renamed alcaldías, mayoralities. This was one of the last steps in a political process that began in the 1990s for changing what had been the Federal District —  el 'Distrito Federal',  informally referred to as 'el De Efe', governed directly by the federal government — to official governmental status as Mexico City. As such, its government is now elected by its residents, and it has autonomy from the federal government with regard to its internal governance that is virtually equal to that of the nation's thirty-one states.
Mexico City's alcaldías enjoy a status similar to municipalities, the governmental subdivisions of states, and their elected heads are now called alcaldes or alcaldesas, mayors. We began Mexico City Ambles in February of 2015, a year before the change of names, so we have used the term delegación(es). Since that name continues to be used by 'chilangos' (Mexico City residents), other than officials, we will also continue to use it. See our page: How Mexico City Grew from an Island to a Metropolis. 

Delegación Gustavo A. Madero: Where It Is, and How It Got Its Name


One such delegacíón that we have barely explored is Gustavo A. Madero. GAM — as it is commonly referred to — is the city's northernmost delegación, forming the "stem" of the city's pear shape. This "stem", which seems an odd extension of the city when seen on maps, is a consequence of its being a narrow valley bounded on both sides by the Sierra de Guadalupe mountains. On the other side of these mountains is the State of Mexico.
The delegación is named after the brother of Francisco Madero, briefly president (1911-13) after the first stage (1910-11) of the Mexican Revolution, in which the dictator, Porfirio Díaz (president from 1876 to 1911) was overthrown. Gustavo was a close ally of his brother in initiating the Revolution and forming the new government. Like his brother, he was assassinated during the overthrow of the Madero government by Gen. Victorino Huerta (with the support of the U.S. Ambassador Henry Wilson) during the Ten Tragic Days of February 1913). 
Delegación Gustavo A Madero (pink)
sits at the northern end of Mexico City.

Our home is in the north-center of Delegación Coyoacán
(the purple one in the middle)

A First Glimpse at the Importance of the Delegación in Mexican History


We have been to GAM once before. It was in 2016, when, in our search to come to know and, hopefully, understand the multiple historical forces that have made Mexico City the unique city it is, it dawned on us that it was essential that we needed to return to take a closer look at its beginnings. We needed to investigate at how not only Tenochtitlán but all the other cities and villages around Lake Texcoco that now lie within the City were transformed, after their military conquest by Hernán Cortés and his Spanish soldiers and indigenous allies in 1521, from being indigenous to being incorporated into Spanish rule and the Catholic faith and culture.

We have written about how Cortés called upon the young King Carlos to send missionaries to convert his new subjects, and the King and the Pope chose the Franciscans for the task. Their arrival in Nueva España began the process that historians have called the Spiritual Conquest. The Franciscans, consciously or intuitively, realized they could not force Catholicism on the people, but needed to find elements in indigenous beliefs and ritual that could be melded into Catholic religious practice as a means of transitioning the people from the one to the other.

Thus, they initiated a process of syncretization of indigenous culture and religion with Spanish Catholicism and culture, a process that took decades and produced the uniquely Mexican (and subsequently across all the southern part of the Americas, a Latino/a) Catholic culture. (See our page: Mexico Traditional Popular Religion).

We soon realized that our quest for the remaining manifestations of this syncretization process in Mexico City had to begin with a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Delegación Gustavo A. Madero, since it was on this site that the quintessential manifestation of the merger of indigenous and Spanish culture took place.

According to Roman Catholic belief, here at the base of a hill near a village named Tepeyac (or Tepeyacac) in December of 1531, the Virgin Mary, in the form of a morena (brown-skinned), Nahuatl-speaking, hence indigenous, young woman appeared to the indigenous peasant, Juan Diego. Over a series of days, la morena identified herself as the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, and she informed the recently baptized peasant that she had chosen him to tell the Bishop of Mexico that she had chosen the people of this previously pagan land as Her own special people, to receive Her special care. She was to be called Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Bishop of Mexico (its first), and a Franciscan, after seeing Her image imprinted on the inside of Juan Diego's cloak, along with a cascade of fresh roses, acknowledged Her as a true manifestation of the Virgin Mother and fulfilled her directive that a chapel be built for her at the site where she had appeared. Over the years, she became known as the "Mother of Mexico" and the chapel went through several replacements, becoming the modern Basilica and complex of churches it is today. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the core embodiment of the syncretism of the two cultures and hence, the obvious place to start our search for the remaining manifestations of that merger is at the Basilica bearing her name.

Our Challenge in Getting to Gustavo A. Madero


It was a challenge to get to the Basilica via the Metro, requiring two changes of lines and at least an hour of travel time. As satisfying and enlightening as our first visit was, we still rather dreaded visiting Delegación Gustavo A. Madero. However, one day, fairly recently, we were riding somewhere with a taxi driver who said he lived in GAM. We told him of our desire to get back there to visit some of its original pueblos, but how difficult it was via the Metro. He replied, "By taxi, it's easy. You just take the Inner Ring Road. GAM is just the other side of the airport."

Having been to and from the airport many times, we knew it's an easy, comfortable half-hour or so ride via expressway — called Rio Churubusco in our area, it's only a few blocks from our apartment. So, GAM was within our reach! Then we just had to wait for an announcement on our beloved Fiesta Mágicas Facebook page of a fiesta in one of GAM's original pueblos for an opportunity to go.

Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan


In early August, an announcement appeared for la Fiesta de San Bartolo in Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan, in GAMChecking our map source "Delegaciones and their Colonias and Barrios", we found San Bartolo Atepehuacan was near the intersection of two main avenues, easily accessible from the Ring Road. So we made plans to go.

Where San Bartolo Atepehuacan Is


Delegación Gustavo A Madero
With its 
177 Pueblos and Colonias (many are very tiny).

Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan
 is tan area just to right of green/yellow star.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is about 1.5 miles east, 

left of red/orange star.
(It sits beneath the purple letter "G" of the name Villa Gustavo A Madero)

The dark green area to the north are the Sierra de Guadalupe 
mountains.

Mexico City International Airport is  southeast of GAM
(in Delegación Venustiano Carranza, named after the winner
of the Mexican Revolution and subsequent president).
Blue line marking the southwestern border of GAM 

follows the Inner Ring Road from the airport west. 

Where the Original Pueblo Atepehuacan Was


As our readers know, we always want to try to locate where the present-day pueblos, now immersed in the metropolis, were originally located in the Valley called Anahuac by its Nahuatl-speaking residents prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. From its current location, we know that the original pueblo of Atepehuacan was not far west of Tepeyac, the current site of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We assumed San Bartolo Atepehuacan was, like Tepeyac, along the north shore of the bay that formed the southwest part of Lake Texcoco. They would have been, we thought, about a half-hour walk apart. 

The Valley of Anáhuac, renamed Mexico by the Spanish,
as it existed at the time of their arrival in 1519.

Tepeyac (here spelled Tepeyacac
was on the west side of  Lake Texcoco,
at the point of a peninsula formed by the Sierra de Guadalupe, 
which created a bay in the southwest portion of  Lake Texcoco.

Atepehuacan lay west and slightly north of Tepeyac(ac).

We were in for a surprise. During the very process of writing this post, on the Facebook page of another original pueblo, Pueblo Santa Cruz Atoyac, in Delegación Benito Juárez, appeared exactly what we needed:
a detailed map of just the bay that formed the southwest section of Lake Texcoco, locating and naming virtually every pueblo that existed around it and on its islands before the Spanish arrived.

Southwest bay of Lake Texcoco,
with Tenochtitlán of the Mexica in the center.

It shows all the altepetls (city-states) and
most of the subsidiary villages
subordinated to the Mexica of Tenochtitlán
after they defeated Azcapotzalco in 1428
(on west shore of the lake, upper left) .

The Mexica then built the causeways
to make access to their dominion easier.

Atepehuacan turns out to have been an island,
in the middle of the bay's northern end!
The Mexica connected it via a short causeway,
to a long one from Tenochtitlán
north to the altepetl of Tenayuca.

Atoyac is located on the southwest shore of the bay.

From the magazine Arqueología Mexicana.
The title says it portrays the Basin (Valley) of Mexico, but it does not.
Our first map shows the entire Basin/Valley.


History of Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan


Prehistoric Period


Amazingly, the island that became known as Atepehuacan is the site of the discovery of one of the earliest evidence of human presence in the Valley of Mexico. In 1957, the fossilized bones of a mammoth were found, together with stone tools, likely used to butcher the animal. Carbon dating of these remains indicate the presence of human beings 9,000 years ago! Many other mammoth skeletons have been found in the Valley, as well as human skeletons that are also at least 9,000 years old. 

In the second millennium BCE, some 3,500 years ago, the first agricultural settlements appeared in the area around the north end of the bay of Lake Texcoco. It has been labeled the Tlatilco culture, named for the present-day town where remains of a large village were found in the State of Mexico, just west of the present Delegación Azcapotzaclo, which is west of GAM (see map of delegaciones above). Remarkably, villages of the same culture also lay within what is now Delegación Gustavo A. Madero. They are still there, the pueblos of Ticoman and Zacatenco.

Era of the Nahua Altepetls (City-States) and the Rise of the Mexica of Tenochtitlan


When the village of Atepehuacan was founded isn't known. Its name is Nahuatl, meaning "the hill where the water comes from". To what water this was referring we don't know. Perhaps there were springs releasing water carried underground from the mountains just to the north. Likely it was founded, or became a Nahua village (possibly replacing earlier residents) sometime around the beginning of the second millennium CE, when Nahua tribes began to enter the valley they named Anáhuac. It was already there when the Mexica arrived in the mid-1220s. The residents made their living by drying lake water to obtain salt, which they then traded with other villages.

Reproduction of the original glyph of the village's name:
Here, in Spanish, "On The Hill of the Water"
Plaque at the entrance to the atrio
of the Church of San Bartolo Atepehuacan.

Across the bay, to the southwest of the island, was the major altepetl (city-state) of Azcapotzalco, whose residents were Tepaneca, a Nahuatl-speaking people. Some historical accounts from the 17th century, written by indigenous for the Spanish, say Azcapotzalco was settled in the 10th century CE, about three hundred years before the arrival of the Mexica in the Valley of Anáhuac.

By the time the Mexica arrived in the Valley, around 1220 CE, Azcapotzalco dominated the west side of Lake Texcoco. Whether Atepehuacan and Tepeyac were Tepeneca villages under its dominion we don't know, but it seems highly probable. When the Mexica founded Tenochtitlán in 1325, it was on islands under Azcapotzalco's dominion, so the new Mexica city was also its subject.

In 1337 a dissident group of Mexica broke with the rulers of Tenochtitlán and founded their own altepetl, Tlatelolco, on an island just to the north. In 1428, the Mexica of Tenochtitlán, with the support of Tlateloloco, Tlacopan and Texcoco defeated Azcapotzalco. It is likely that Tlatelolco took control of the islands to its north, including Atepehuacan, at that time, because even though Tenochtitlán forced Tlateloloco to submit to its rule in 1473, the islands were under Tlatelolco's rule when the Spanish arrived in 1519.

Life in Nueva España, Under Spanish Rule


After the Conquest by the Spanish in 1521, in keeping with Cortés's strategy of maintaining indigenous political structures, but under Spanish control, Atepehuacan was kept within the jurisdiction of Tlatelolco, which was renamed Santiago Tlatelolco. The Franciscans came there early on and built a large Convento de Santiago Tlatelolco. In 1535, they opened the Colegio de Santa Cruz (Holy Cross), a residential school to educate sons of the indigenous ruling class in the Spanish language, Roman Catholic beliefs and Spanish culture, like the one they had created at San José de los Naturalestheir main convent in the former center of Tenochtitlán, then La Ciudad de México.

From Santiago Tlateloloco, via the Mexica causeway to Tenayuca (see map above), Fray Pedro de Gante, one of the first three Franciscans to arrive in Nueva España in 1523, and Fray Martín de Valencia and Fray Toribio de Benavente (known as Motolinia) — two of the so-called "Twelve Apostles" who arrived in the second group in 1524 — came to the Atepehuacan to begin the conversion of its residents.

The current church of San Bartolomé Apóstol was erected by the Franciscans sometime between the latter part of the 16th and the early years of the 17th centuries.

 Map of the Quarter of Santiago Tlatilulco (Tlatelolco)
drawn by José Antonio Alzate,
for the Ecclesiastical Atlas of the Archbishopric of Mexico, 1767.

San Bartolomé (far right) was one of the pueblos under the oversight of Santiago Tlatelolco.

The map indicates it was 1 (Spanish) league from Santiago Tlatelolco, equal to 2.6 miles,
which is close to its actual distance of 3 miles. 

(The map's orientations are off by 90 degrees.
San Bartolomé is north (Norte) of Santiago Tlatelolco, not west [Poniente]

Church of San Bartolomé Atepehuacan, today.


From an Island in a Lake to a Village Surrounded by Spanish Haciendas


Beginning in the 17th century, the Spanish undertook the monumental task of draining Lake Texcoco and Lakes Xaltocan and Zumpagno to the north to try to prevent flooding of the city during the summer rainy seasons. At the northwest end of the Valley, they dug a tunnel through the mountains, using it to connect the Cuautitlan River (see map above of Valley of Mexico), to the Tula River, which is part of the Gulf of Mexico watershed. Then via the tunnel, they reversed the flow of the Cuautitlan River through the tunnel, draining the lakes.

As Lake Texcoco dried up, the river named by the Spanish Río de los Remedios (River of the Remedies), which had drained into the western side of the bay (on the map of the Bay, note the river flowing into the bay north of Azcapotzalco) was extended as a canal across the former bay, past Atepehuacan and connected to the diminishing remains of Lake Texcoco and thus to the main drainage system running north to the tunnel.

Lake Texcoco by Mid-19th Century
The draining of the lakes occurred slowly.

San Bartolo Atepehuan is not named here, but lay far west of the lake,
north of Mexico City, just north of Santa Magdalena
and west of San Miguel Guadalupe (site of the Basilica).
El Río de los Remedios now flowed past San Bartolo Atepehuacan.

As what had been water around Atepehuacan — like that around all the many other islands in the lake — turned into dry land, it became available for human use. Under Spanish law, all such land belonged to the Crown, which could then make encomiendas, land grants, to persons of its choice. Such grants went to Spanish settlers (known as peninsulares, if they came from the Iberian Peninsula) or criollos (children of pure Spanish ancestry born in New Spain). They established haciendas, large estates to grow crops or raise cattle.

The newly exposed land around Atepehuacan was distributed by a number of royal grants, such that Atepehuacan became totally surrounded by haciendas. As the pueblo's residents could no longer make a living by producing salt, they had no choice but to work on the haciendas. This way of life was to remain the same for the rest of Spanish rule, which ended in 1821.

The haciendas surrounding Atepehuacan continued to exist even after Mexico gained its independence, which was actually won by consevative criollo leaders under Agustín Iturbide, and the residents of the pueblo continued to make their living on the haciendas.

Mexican Revolution Brings the Pueblo Some Land of Its Own


One of the motives of some forces joining in the Mexican Revolution (1910-17) — particularly those of Emiliano Zapata from the south and Pancho Villa from the north — was to regain land taken from indigenous peoples and granted to the Spanish for haciendas. The Constitution of 1917 — written to try to create a government agreeable, on the one side, to Zapata and Villa, and on the other side, to the forces of Venustiano Carranza, a conservative, wealthy ranch owner — did establish the government's right to expropriate such lands and give them as ejidos, communally-owned land, to indigenous and mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish) villages. However, Carranza refused to accept the Constitution and war re-erupted between his forces and those of Villa and Zapata.

Under the generalship of Álvaro Obregón, the Carranza forces defeated those of Villa and Zapata and Carranza became the new president of Mexico. He did not implement any of the expropriation of lands. In 1920, when the Constitution called for election of a new president, Carranza chose a conservative ally as his candidate. Obregón, believing he should be the next president, gathered former troops of the Revolution and drove Carranza from Mexico City. Carranza was then assassinated while fleeing towards Veracruz, trying to leave the country. Obregón became president (1920 to 1924).

All of this resulted in a significant change for the residents of Atepehuacan. On May 17, 1923, President Obregón, who was supportive of the demands for expropriation of lands, granted ejido land to the town. Obregon granted an area of ​​150 hectares (370 acres) to the pueblo of Atepehuacan, evidently expropriating it from some of the surrounding haciendas. Nevertheless, the Spanish-owned haciendas continued to exist on all sides, and the residents of Atepehuacan continued to work on them.

"Land and Justice" | Cry of the Zapatistas
Photo: Men of Atepehucan, in front of the Church,
at the time the ejido land was granted to them in the 1920s,

During the time that Atepehuacan had the ejido land, about one hundred families, totaling about five hundred people, lived in the pueblo. They used the land to grow corn, beans and other crops to feed themselves and alfalfa to feed their cows. In the southern part, a lagoon, fed by water from the Rio de los Remedios canal, provided water.

Life in San Bartolo Atepehuacan remained pretty much the same as it had been for centuries.

Centuries-long Rural Life Is Overrun By Urban Modernity


All this began to drastically and suddenly change in 1945, when the government of the Federal District (an extension of the federal government) expropriated 114 hectares (282 acres) of the ejido land, saying it was to be used to create an industrial zone that would provide jobs for the community, but instead, it was used for housing. Many new people moved in around the old pueblo. In the process, many paved avenues and streets were created crossing and surrounding the pueblo and urbanizing the entire area, including the remaining hacienda land, which was sold off by its owners.

Memories collected a few years ago from senior residents of Atepehuacan — people who were born in the late 1920s into the 1930s — recount this radical transformation. They describe with nostalgia a childhood of living in a rural pueblo, helping parents work their plots in the ejido land, playing with friends, knowing everyone in the pueblo. The streets were of dirt, there was no electricity, piped water or sewage system. An elementary school education was provided by the government in a rented house. Then, beginning with the expropriation of much of the ejido land in 1945, that world, which had existed for centuries, rapidly began to undergo change, totally disappearing into the engulfing city.

A Core That Survived Everything


Nevertherless, one place has remained constant throughout all of the pueblo's history, that is, from the arrival of the Franciscans in the early 16th century until today. It is the Church of San Bartolomé. But that, too, came very close to disappearing by the mid-20th century. A strong current in the Mexican Revolution was directed at reducing significantly, if not eliminating, the presence and power of the Catholic Church in Mexican society.

The Constitution of 1917 declared church property to be the property of the State. The amount of property used for religious purposes and the number of clergy were both limited. The State could use church property for other, secular uses. Clergy lost all political rights, and their presence, as well as religious rituals, were limited to the interior of churches. There were to be no fiestas or processions of the saints through the streets.

However, these restrictions were not embodied in specific laws and, hence, not enforced until the presidency of Plutarco Calles (1924 to 28), a former general in the Revolution who was fervently anti-Catholic. He had laws passed by the Congress to enforce the limits set in the Constitution. Church property was confiscated. Many clergy were forced to leave the country. Over time, these restrictions were lifted in the face of strong, even violent opposition by faithful Catholics in the Cristero War (1926-29), but the loss of church power, wealth and presence had its effects on the church of San Bartolomé Atepehuacan.

San Bartolomé was left without a priest and virtually abandoned. Parishioners went to the parish church attached to the Basilica or to other parish churches in the area for religious services, for masses and for all the archetypical rituals marking the life cycle: weddings, baptisms, first communions, funerals. Although the community continued to support a sacristan, a sexton or custodian, to maintain the building, it increasingly fell into disrepair, to the point of its roof nearing collapse and weeds growing inside in the 1950s.

San Bartolomé Church in the 1930's
Photo from the archives of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, INAH

At that point, some residents formed a committee to undertake getting the building restored and to petition the Bishop of Mexico City for a priest. Both of these goals were accomplished, and with further repairs and a full-time clergy since the 1960s, the church has been restored to its present, well maintained state and active religious life.
Note: This history of the pueblo is our translated adaptation of parts of a monograph "El Pueblo de San Bartolo Atepehuacan: As Remembered by Its Senior Citizens", a collection of oral histories. The recounting of the rescue of the church comes from "The History of San Bartolo Atepehuacan" as narrated by Sra. Conchita Islas.
The photographs from the early 20th century and the map from the Ecclesiastical Atlas of the Archbishopric of Mexico of 1767, together with other information were generously providcd by Sr. Nestor Rangel Hernández, who maintains the Facebook page of Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan Xipe Tótec and works with other community members to collect and preserve documentation of the pueblo´s history. We met him at the pueblo's patron saint fiesta.

Fiesta Patronal de Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan


San Bartolo, (or San Bartolomé, St. Bartholomew) was one of Jesus' lesser known disciples. He is little mentioned in the Gospels. Catholic legend says he preached in Asia and was martyred there. His feast day is August 24. So on the Sunday morning following the 24th, we call our faithful taxi stand and ten minutes later one of our regular drivers, who has transported us to many fiestas, arrives and we are on our way.

There is little traffic on the Inner-Ring expressway and in twenty minutes we are passing the airport and following GAM's southern border. In another ten minutes or so, we exit onto the Eje Central, the Central Axis Road, that leads to the corner of Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan. Across the street, we spot the ever-sure sign of a fiesta, puestos (stands) selling food, and juegos mecánicos (carnival rides) in a side street. Thanking and paying our driver, we get out, cross the wide avenue and enter the typically narrow calleja of a pueblo.

The announcement of fiesta activities says that a procession of San Bartolomé through the streets of the pueblo had begun earlier in the morning and was due to return to the church at noon, when a mass would be celebrated to honor San Bartolomé. However many people may have gone on the procession, we find many people in the street in front of the church. The street is covered with a large tarp, to protect them from both sun and rain (August is the middle of the rainy season).

Kermes, a Communal Meal


Around the edges are tables with people providing all kinds of typical Mexican food. Underneath are long tables lined with people sitting and enjoying a meal and the communal spirit of the day. It is a kermes, a communal meal that is a typical part of a pueblo or parish fiesta. Traditionally, they were paid for by the mayordomo, the chief caretaker of the fiesta or by members of the mayordomia, a committee. Nowadays, they are often supported, as are other fiesta costs, by collections taken in the community over a period of time before the fiesta. Here, the diners are paying for the food. We assume those providing the meals will donate some part of their revenue to the church.

A parish member makes corn tortillas, which are baked on a flat comal, metal griddle,
heated by gas from a small tank.
The cooked tortillas are filled with various ingredients: shredded meat, onions, bean paste.
Tortillas, the very foundation of Mexican food for millenia,
used to be patted into shape by hand and baked on a stone comal over charcoal.
This woman is using a metal press. 

Kermes, with numerous providers of food.


The Church of San Bartolomé


As there is no other activity at this point, we go into the atrio (atrium) of the church to explore this historic building, the revitalized physical and spiritual center of the pueblo.

Bouquets of flowers adorn the arch of the atrio entrance.
There isn't the usual floral portada arch over the entrance of the church,
but these bouquets are gorgeous.

In the atrio, a series of panels have been set up to display art work by children of the pueblo, portraying the church. Two of them, in particular, catch our eye.

Church of San Bartolomé
Drawing and water color by Ximena Cabrera Rosas, age 10.
She clearly has artistic ability and a meticulous style!

Church of San Bartolomé.
in a more impressionistic and colorfully Mexican style.
The artist's name, unfortunately, does not appear. 

The interior is small, spare, Franciscan in its simplicity, but flower-filled for the fiesta.
San Bartolomé stands behind the altar.

Leaving the church and atrio and walking around to the north side, we discover a now-rare church panteón, cemetery, enclosed behind adobe walls. In Catholic tradition, the Faithful were buried in sanctified ground, in the atrio of the church or in the panteón along side it.

Many church cemeteries were eliminated during the Reform Period (1857-72), when liberals, under the leadership of Benito Juárez, sought to limit church property, wealth and power. The reform government also required that, for health reasons, all burials be in cemeteries outside the then limits of the Municipality of Mexico City (essentially what is now Colonia Centro). Restrictions imposed after the Revolution led to a further reduction of church panteones. This is only the third we have seen beside a Mexico City Church.

Traditional Mexican Catholic panteón

North of the panteón wall, (to the left) we find a semi-circular park, evidently a remnant of a circular plaza that once surrounded the church.

A shaded, quiet retreat
in what is now an otherwise urban neighborhood.

Procession Arrives and Mass Begins


At this point we hear the sound of cohetes, rocket-style firecrackers, and a banda, both standard announcements of an approaching procession. So we hurry out to the street in front of the church.

San Bartolomé, in demandita form (i.e. in a small size and therefore portable)
surrounded with fresh roses, returns to the church.
The procession, like the image of the saint, has been a small one.
Only a few people have accompanied San Bartolomé through the streets of the pueblo.
There are no saints or banners from other pueblos, which usually visit 

and particiapte in the fiesta of neighboring pueblos. 
Perhaps it is because Atepehuacan was originally an island, 
so there are no other, adjacent orginal pueblos.

To our surprise, the procession does not enter the church atrio, but another enclosed patio across the street. Following it, we find it is the atrio to a modern and very simple, utilitarian, but much larger chapel, big enough to hold a larger congregation. 

Modern chapel begins to fill for the mass celebrating
San Batolomé's feast day. 

El Pueblo, The People


As the preparations for mass begin, we return to the kermes in the street. Now we, too, are hungry. We look around at the options offered and are attracted to the stand of a young couple barbecuing pieces of pork on wooden skewers over a charcoal grill. They look and smell delicious, so we buy one and, taking a supply of paper napkins, as it will be a messy meal, we walk back around to the north side of the church to sit on a bench in the shade of the park to enjoy the food and rest awhile.

When we finish the barbecue, fully satisfied, we return to the kermes, which is clearly the main communal event of this fiesta for San Bartolo. It is a great opportunity to take retratos (portraits) of the people of this pueblo. Such portraits are one of our most favorite photographic subjects. The faces of ordinary. everyday Mexicans, el pueblo, are almost always full of character, of the living of life, of their ánimo, their spirit.



                 

 

The parish priest with members of the fiesta organizing committee.

                                         

Sr. Ricardo Montero (left)
introduced himself to us and
offered to answer any of our questions.
He also showed us the tile glyph of
Atepehuacan,
hidden behind a poster at the atrio entrance.

We would never have seen it without his help, and
we used it (above) in our introduction to the pueblo.

Sr. Nestor Rangel Hernández (right)
maintains the pueblo's
Facebook page and has provided us with much of the
written and photographic history
of San Bartolo Atepehuacan Xipe Tótec*


(Note: Xipe Totec ("Our Lord the Flayed One") was a Nahua deity of life, death and rebirth;
also of agriculture, vegetation, the east (where the sun rises, giving birth to each newday),
 disease, spring and liberation. 
He flayed himself to give food to humanity, 
symbolic of the way maize (corn) seeds lose their outer layer before germination 
and of snakes shedding their skin. [Wikipedia]

To us,  Xipe Totec's symbolic functions seem close to those of Jesus the Christ, 
especially in His Passion, Death and Resurrection, 
which are central to Mexican Catholic symbolism and belief.  

The Place of San Bartolo Atepehuacan in the History and Life of Mexico City, and of Mexico as a People

The Fiesta of San Bartolomé of Pueblo Atepehuacan was modest:
There was no floral portada over the church entrance, no big procession, no visiting pueblos, no conchero or chinelo dancers.
Beside the mass in a most modest of modern chapels, the big event was the kermes, the communal meal. But we realize the story that we have come to discern in attending the pueblo's fiesta, meeting some of its people and researching its history is one worth sharing. It is the story of how San Bartolo Atepehuacan has managed to survive and maintain a continuity of its identity as a pueblo, a community of people with ancient roots, despite multiple drastic changes which could have been traumatic and resulted in its disappearance.

It began as an island community whose residents supported themselves by producing salt. The Spanish turned it into a piece of the mainland and the people into the work force for Spanish haciendas. After a brief twenty-year period of having some ejido, land of its own, the land was taken away and the pueblo was then rapidly all but overrun by the modern city. Despite all of that, there remains a community of people, a pueblo, that still comes together to mark and celebrate the feast day of its patron saint and who, thereby, retain a sense, an experience of their ancient communal identity.

That is the story of Pueblo San Bartolo Atepehuacan, and of many other of the still-surviving pueblos of Mexico City, and of all of Mexico. We think that is quite a miracle in, and of, itself.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Original Villages | Iztapalapa: San Juanico Nextipac

Discovering Pueblo San Juanico Nextipac | An Amble Through Geography and History


We discovered Pueblo San Juanico Nextipac via a most 21st century route, the Facebook Page, Fiestas Mágicas de los Pueblos y Barrios del Valle de México (Magic Fiestas of the Villages and Neighborhoods of the Valley of Mexico). The Fiestas Page has become our indispensable resource in finding Mexico City's original indigenous villages and becoming informed of their fiestas, which is the best time to visit them in order to get to know something of them and their people.

We noticed that Pueblo San Juanico Nextipac frequently posts announcements of its upcoming fiestas, with links to its own Facebook page. Clearly, whatever its origins and history, the community has an active group committed to maintaining its traditions, so we added it to our list of pueblos to visit. We just needed an opportune time. When they announced a fiesta this past August, the date was good for us, and we began preparations to attend.

Locating Nextipac: Where It Is Now and Where It Was Originally


To find San Juanico Nextipac, we looked at our other main resource for finding original pueblos in the city — the website La Ciudad de México a través de sus colonias (Mexico City Via Its Colonias), which provides a map of each of the sixteen delegaciones (boroughs, since 2016 officially called alcaldías, mayoralities, when Mexico City became the legal entity--part of the Mexican federation of states--replacing the former Federal District).

The site overlays a Google Map of each delegación with the boundaries of every colonia and pueblo within it, each in a distinct color. Searching for a name causes it to be highlighted on the map. San Juanico Nextipac is in the very large Delegación Iztapalapa, composed of 199 colonias and pueblos. On the map, we discover that the pueblo is very tiny — two blocks wide from south to north and no more than six short blocks long — which simply arouses even more curiosity about the number of its fiestas.

Fortunately for us, it sits in the northwest corner of the delegación, not far up the Calzada de Tlalpan highway from our apartment in Coyoacán and not far east of that roadway, so it will be easy to get there.

Original Topography of the Valley of Mexico Centered on Lakes With Islands


We were particularly curious about the location of San Juan Nextipac. Given the Valley's original topography, nearly filled by a chain of five lakes, now erased by their being drained to try to prevent flooding, and the city's contemporary sprawl, it seems to us that it must have been an island in Lake Texcoco. We already knew that a number of islands in the five lakes in the Valley were occupied by villages and even powerful altepetls, city-states.

The most famous of these, of course, was the altepetl (city-state) of Tenochtitlán, built by the so-called Azteca (more accurately, the Mexica—Meh-SHE-kah) in the 14th century, on an island in a bay in the southwest corner of Lake Texcoco. Tenochtitlán literally became the foundation of the Spanish Ciudad de México (now Colonia Centro), and thus, the concrete embodiment of the transformation of indigenous culture to Spanish culture.

With this in mind, we set out a couple of years ago to understand better what relationships there might be between the structure of the current city, much expanded from its original Centro, and the of realtionship of the original Tenochtitlán to the numerous other settlements around itOur first discovery was that Tenochtitlán was not originally just one island, but actually five or six, cobbled together by the Mexica over two hundred years. (See How Mexico City Grew From an Island to a Metropolis).

The Valley of Mexico, about 1519,
at the Time of the Arrival of the Spanish.

Lake Texcoco was the largest and most central of five lakes.
The Peninsula of Iztapalapa (the Azteca/Mexica name)
divided it from Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco to the south.

Note that a series of small islands ran up the west side of Lake Texcoco,

from the end of the Peninsula to México-Tenochtitlán and beyond.

On the map, most of the islands lie along, or just east of, the cuepotli, causeway, 
(thin line #3), built by the Mexicas in the 1430s to create a land connection
from Tenochtitlán to the Iztapalapa Peninsula (via Mexicaltzingo
and to the southwest shore near Coyoacán. 

To the east of the islands the Mexicas also built a dike (thick line)     
with its northern end at Atzacoalco and southern end at the altepetl of Iztapalapa  
to keep Lake Xochimilco's fresh waters separate from the briny (salty) water 
in Lake Texcoco, which was the result of the lake having no outlet.

Intrigued by what we discovered about the underpinnings of Tenochtitlán, we began searching out other original pueblos that had also been islands. This led us on ambles to:
  • Tultengo, which was directly south of Tenochtitlán, "officially" part of the city, but connected to it only by canals that surrounded chinampas, so-called "floating gardens", i.e. man-made islands built by driving pilings into the shallow lake and filling them with mud for raising crops;
  • Mixhuac (originally Mixhuacan), southeast of Tultengo;
  • Aztacalco, now known as "La Romita", in Colonia La Roma Norte, southwest of Tenochtitlán (Centro Histórico), and
  • Iztacalco, further south and east of the Mexica causeway.
So now, coming across San Juanico Nexitpac, we wanted to confirm whether it was another of the islands in the chain that ran from the Iztapalapa Peninsula, north across Lake Texcoco, to Tenochtitlán and beyond, and if so, what relationship it might have had with Tenochtitlán.

Locating San Juanico Nextipac, and Delegacíon Iztapalapa, in Relation to the Original Lake Texcoco and the Iztapalapa Peninsula 


To locate present-day Pueblo San Juanico Nextipac in relation to the original lacustrine topography, we needed to find a map that would place the boundaries of modern Mexico City and its delegaciones in relation to the original Lake Texcoco and its southern boundary, the Iztapalapa Peninsula. Happily, we were able to find exactly what we needed:

Boundaries of Mexico City and its 16 Delegaciones or Alcaldias (Boroughs)
overlaid on the topography of the original lakes and volcanic mountains of
the Valley of Mexico.

The flat, tan area was the lakes and low-lying shoreland around them.

Delegación Iztapalapa (marked by green/yellow star)
includes what was the Iztapalapa Peninsula, now marked by green hills.


Cerro de la Estrella (Hill of the Star) is the single hill to the west.


The original altepetl Culhuacán is on the southwest side of the hill,
and the original altepetl of Iztapalapa is on its north side.


Nextipac is northwest of Cerro de la Estrella
in the northwest corner of the current Delegación,
thus, evidently, an island in Lake Texcoco.

Sierra de Santa Catarina is the row of volcanic hills 

in the southeast section of Delegación Iztapalapa.

Then, while we were seraching for further evidence to pin down Nextipac's location in the original lacustrine environment, out of the virtual blue of the internet, a map appeared on the Facebook page of another original pueblo, Pueblo Santa Cruz Atoyac, in Delegación Benito Juárez. It presented exactly what we needed:
a detailed map of the bay in the southwest section of Lake Texcoco, locating and naming virtually every pueblo that existed around it and on its islands.

Southwest bay of Lake Texcoco,
with Tenochtitlán of the Mexica in the center.

It shows all the altepetls (city-states) and
most of their subordinate villages
after the Mexica defeated Azcapotzalco (upper left) in 1428,
taking control of entire area.
They then built the causeways
to make access to their dominion easier.

Nextipac (spelled Nextipan)
appears as an island in the southeast,
north of Mexicaltzinco,
at the tip of the Iztapalapa Peninsula.

Atoyac
is located on the west shore of the bay,
slightly south west of Nextipac.

From the magazine Arqueología Méxicana


The title says it portrays the Basin (Valley) of Mexico, but it does not.
Our first map shows the entire Basin/Valley.

With this map of the bay at the time of Mexica rule, aka the Aztec Empire (1428-1521), we can now return to the contemporary city and see where the island village to which the Spanish friars added the name San Juan (Bautista) is situated in relation to the other original villages that were south of it, on the Iztapalapa Peninsula, and north of it on the string of islands.

Northwest corner of Delegación Iztapalapa

Pueblo San Juanico Nextipac
is marked by the green/yellow star (upper center).

Mexicaltzingo (mustard/yellow star), just to the south,
was at Peninsula's western point, or possibly, an island just offshore.

Iztapalapa (red/orange star), east of Mexicaltzingo, is
another altepetl, built by the Mexica at the south end of the
dike they constructed in the 1430s.

Culhuacán (blue star, red area at bottom of map)
is the oldest altepetl on the Peninsula.

Ermita | Hermitage (purple/orange star), due west of Mexicaltzingo,
was in the channel thru which Lake Xochimilco
emptied into Lake Texcoco.
 There the causeway built by the Mexica from Tenochtitlán divided:
Eastern branch went to Mexicaltzingo,
Western branch went to Coyoacán.
(See map of the bay, above)

North of Nextipac are the former island pueblos of:
Iztacalco (yellow/red star) and
Mixhuca (green/green star).

 Thick black line marks the Canal de la Viga (discussed below).

A Village on an Island Becomes a Village in the Countryside


All these pueblos, from those on the Iztapalapa Peninsula through those that were islands, from Nextipac north to Zoquipan, now lie along or near the Calzada de la Viga, a major avenue. The avenue covers over what was, until the early 20th century, the route of the Royal or, after Mexican Independence, National Canal, known familiarly as the Canal de la Viga (thick black line on map above).

The canal was constructed in the 17th century, when the draining of Lake Texcoco to prevent flooding of Mexico City created the need for a transportation route to bring vegetables from the chinampas situated in the fresh waters of Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco to the City's Center. Each of these pueblos, including San Juanico Nextipac, became stops, with loading docks, along the canal.

Lake Texcoco by Mid-19th Century
The draining of the lakes occurred slowly.

San Juanico Nextipac is not named here,
but lay at about the southwwestern edge of the map,
below Iz(s)talcalo.The winding line drawn north past Iztacalco was actually the much straighter
National Canal, La Viga.
The Peninsula of Iztapalapa had become connected to Coyoacán and Mixcoac,
to its west
(
Wikipedia)

La Viga (former Royal) Canal in 1850
superimposed on a 1970 map of Mexico City.

San Juanico appears at the left, about halfway up the canal.

Heavy red line up the center is modern outer-ring expressway.
Thin red line up left side is Calzada de Tlalpan,
the former Mexica cuepotli, causeway.


Nextipac's Place in History: A Stepping Stone to Tenochtitlán


When the Azteca/Mexica arrived, about 1220, at the north end of the valley called Anahuac by its residents, all the land around the five lakes was already occupied or under the dominion of one or another altepetl (city-state). The Mexica made several attempts to establish their own settlement, but over the next eighty years they were forced to keep gradually moving southward, along the west shore of Lake Texcoco.

Eventually, in 1279, they were able to establish a village at Chapúltepec, a small, extinct ash cone volcano (see first map and map of the bay). But because several other altepetls evidently saw them as growing too big and occupying a strategic location (a hilltop with freshwater springs, overlooking the southwest bay of Lake Texcoco), these altepetls jointly attacked the Mexica in 1299, driving them out and killing their tlatoani (literally, "speaker", i.e., ruler).

The large glyph identifies Chapúltepec Hill (Hill of the Grasshopper)
The glyphs at the top name the years:

 13 House (1297 CE), 1 Rabbit (1298) and 2 Reed (1299). 

The text records the attack on the Mexica occurred in 2 Reed, 1299.

From Codex Aubin
Written by a Mexica in the mid 16th century, at the request of Spanish monks,
the Codex Aubin presents the history of the Azteca/Mexica
 from their migration out of their legendary home of Aztlan in the year 1 Flint (1168 CE)
through their foundation of Tenochtitlán in 1325, 

to the Spanish conquest in 1521. (Wikipedia)
 
(Photograph and translation of Nahuatl from Fordham University.


The Mexica who survived the onslaught ended up fleeing to one of the attacking altepetls, Culhuacán, on the Iztapalapa Peninsula, and surrendering. In 1300, the tlatoani allowed them to settle on some bare land, known as Tizaapan, on the north side of the Peninsula (near where the Mexica were to build the altepetl of Iztapalapa more than a century later). As virtual slaves, they served as mercenaries in the tlatoani's army and were used to attack the altepetl of Xochimilco on the south side of the lake of that nane. However, within four years, conflicts arose between the Culhua and the Mexica. (The reasons for the conflict given in various codices are dramatically different and too complex to go into here.) 

In any case, the Mexica were forced to flee Tizaapan and  move just west to Mexicaltzingo. The Aubin Codex shows a drawing of their flight on rafts, which is also described by the text, so Mexicaltzingo was evidently an island off the end of the Peninsula.

The Mexica flee Culhuacán on rafts, to Mexicaltzingo.
From Codex Aubin

The Mexica were able to stay there through the year 1304 before the Culhuas once again drove them out. The only remaining option available for them were the islands to the north, in Lake Texcoco.

The closest island was the one now known as Nextipac. The Mexica moved there and were able to remain for four years, from 1305 through 1308. 

On the year eight calli (1305), the Mexica moved to Nexticpac.
By the year eleven tecpatl (1308), the Mexica had spent four years in Nextipac.
Codex Aubin

Then, Culhuacán again decided they didn't want the Mexica that close either, so they raided their settlement, burning it to the ground. The Mexica had no choice but to move on up the chain of islands, to Iztacalco, then to Mixhuac. Finally, a bit even farther north they found Zoquipan and a group of adjacent, empty islands, under the dominion of the altepetl of Azcapotzaclo, on the west shore of Lake Texcoco (see first map).

The tlatoani of Azcapotzalco gave the Mexica persmission to settle there. as long as they agreed to be subject to that altepetl. So, in 1325, on those islands, they founded Tenochtitlán. Their founding legend says that their god, Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird of the South), who had led them from Aztlan beginning in 1168, gave the Mexica a sign of a golden eagle sitting atop a nopal catus, consuming a serpent, to reveal to them that, after one hundred fifty-seven years of searching, this was to be their new home.

Mexica Reprise: Re-founding Nextipac


As subjects of Azcapotzalco, the Mexica fought in their wars against other altepetls around the lake. One of these was against Culhuacan, which they defeated. After a hundred years as subjects of Azcapotzalco, in 1428, an internecine struggle erupted among the royalty of that altepetl over who would be the next tlatoani. The Mexica of Tenochtitlán took advantage of this internal disorder to form an alliance with two other altepetls, Texcoco, on the east shore of the lake, and Tlalcopan, on the west shore, also a subject of Azcapotzalco.

This Triple Alliance defeated Azcapotzalco's army. As first among equals, Tenochtitlán immediately became the dominant power in the Valley of Anahuac. The Mexica soon  built their causeways to help maintain rapid access to — and better control of — the Valley. They built their dike, with Iztapalapa at the southern end and put their own tlatoani in charge, likely to keep an eye on Culhuacán.

During this time, some Mexica moved back to that first island off the shore of the Iztapalapa Peninsula. They named it Nextipac, which means the Place Built on the Ashes in Nahuatl. The pueblo was still there when the Spanish arrived about a hundred years later. Five hundred years later, it still is. It is to that at least six-hundred-year-old pueblo that we take our amble on a Sunday in August 2018.

San Juanico Nextipac's Fiesta of the Divine Savior


Early in August, San Juanico Nextipac celebrates la Fiesta del Divino Salvador, the Feast of the Divine Savior. 

Checking our Catholic Liturgical calendar, we find it celebrates Jesus's Transfiguration. While praying on a mountaintop with three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, Jesus is miraculously showered with light from Heaven. Moses and the Prophet Elijah then appear beside Him, and a voice from Heaven says, "My Son". Like His baptism by John the Baptist at the beginning of His ministry, it was another confirmation that He was the Messiah, the Christ, i.e., the Anointed One, the Son of God.


Arriving at the Church, we find in place portadas created from fresh flowers.
The one above the gate to the atrio (atrium) says, "Peace, Hope, Faith".
(August is in the middle of the rainy season, so it's a day of intermittent sun and clouds.)

"Divine Savior, My Good Pastor"
The current church, faced with local tezontle, the Nahuatl name for the red and black volcanic rock,
was built in the 1880s, replacing one from the 18th century,
which had replaced an even earlier chapel.
The oldest bell in the tower bears the date 1689. (Wikipedia en español

A simple, neo-classic sanctuary,
flower-bedecked for the Mass honoring Jesus as the Divine Savior
(in white robe, rear, right)

The Procession


Outside, a cohetero,
igniter of cohetes, firecracker rockets,
announces the beginning of the procession

of the saints through the streets of the pueblo.

A Comparsa (Dance Troop) of Chinelos, wearing Moorish style costumes, leads the way. 


The Chinelos are followed by a military-style drum and bugle corps.
It's the first such we've ever seen in a religious procession.
When they stop for a moment, we ask the leader if they are army or police,
He says, "No, we're a band from Gustavo Madero"
(It's a delegación, i.e., borough, at the north end of the City).

Next comes a comparsa of charros, fancy-dressed cowboy- and cowgirl-style dancers.

The street in front of the church, San Juanico, is a narrow calleja, barrio street.
But soon we reach the wide Calzada de la Viga at the west end of the pueblo,
so everyone can spread out for a grand parade.




A second comparsa de charros

         
Strutting....
...Their Stuff!
 
With another band,
rather more informal in style than the first

Then comes the procession of saints,
honored with fresh sunflowers.

Jesus revealed via His Transfiguration as the Christ, the Divine Savior.

St. John the Baptist,
San Juanico's patron saint
(His feast day is June 25)

Another San Juan Bautista
Corn, domesticated in Mexico 10,000 years ago, is

a powerful symbol of Mexican identity.
The fresh fruit in plastic bags? We have no idea. Perhaps, life.

Santiago Matamoros,
 St. James the Moor Slayer,
the disciple of Jesus who,
according to legend,
 traveled to the Roman province of Iberia
to found Christianity in the 1st century CE,

 and miraculously returned
800 years later to help expel Muslims,
a "reconquest" completed in 
1492,
thus bringing into being the full
Kingdom of Spain.

Santiago is, thus, he who defeats pagans
in defense of Spanish Christianity;
hence, a symbol to the indigenous
peoples of the New World,
convert or else....

Santiago
Accompanied by Modern Superheroes
(Our personal favorite)

Two doncellas, maidens,
precede the ultimate maiden

The Virgin (Mary) of Candelaria,
with el Niño Jesús, the Infant Jesus.
Her Feast Day is February 2, forty days after Christmas.

Even younger innocents precede another Virgin Mary

Another Virgin of Candelaria
(One or more Virgins Mary are always
in a procession of saints,
no matter the primary saint being honored,
even when it is Her Son.

The Virgin of Guadalupe,
Mother of Mexico

Finally, saints are also represented in paintings

The procession returns to the atrio of the church.
A celebration of the Mass will follow.

Quema de Salva, A Salvo of Cohetes.


The procession will be followed, as they always are, by a Mass dedicated to the saint of the day, this time, the Divine Savior. But we have seen on the fiesta announcement that before the Mass there is to be a quema de salva, a long series of exploding of cohete firecrackers — a kind of military-style salute to the saint of the day. Often this is done from the roof of the church or a building attached to it. 

We see no sign of anyone on the roof, so we ask one of the parishioners where it will occur, so we can find the best position for taking photos. He tells us it is about to take place in the street behind the church, so we hurry out of the atrio and around toward the rear. On the way, we pass a small plaza — the kind that is usually in front of a church atrio, so we hadn't seen it when we arrived earlier in the day. At the near side is a large, very formal metal sign providing what is evidently some historical information about Nextipac. We certainly want to learn what it has to share.

But we will have to return to read the sign later, because la salva is beginning. Young men are hurrying from a building at the rear, carrying bunches of cohetes to other men in the street behind the church. There, these men are handing them one at a time to still others who light them — one after another — as fast as possible. The noise is, of course, deafening. Surely, the saints above hear it. The street is full of smoke.

Quema de salva







Returning to the Foundations of Nextipac


When the quema ends, relative calm and quiet return, and the smoke begins to clear. We go back to the side of the church to explore the plaza, and to read the information on the sign about the history of Nextipac.


The sign's information is in two sections. The first is headed, "Summarizing Efforts to Investigate and Conserve Your Heritage" It reads:
"In the year 2014, with the purpose of remodeling the main plaza of the pueblo of San Juanico Nextipac, researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, with the support of the neighbors of Delegación Iztapalapa, carried out archaeological excavations and succeeded in recovering valuable information about Nextipac's past.
"They were able to record various structures used for habitation that date from the prehispanic epoch: stucco floors, possible remains of a platform, an offering, a fireplace and buildings of adobe (clay).
The archaeological materials recovered are of ceramic, stone, shell and bone. They take us back not only to a prehispanic occupation that goes from 900 [CE] to 1519 [year Hernán Cortés and his Spanish soldiers entered the Valley of Mexico], but also to an important occupation that continued after the Spanish conquest in 1521 until our days."  
The illustrations in red to the right side of this first section represent some of the objects found.

The second section is headed:  "The Roots of Your Barrio: the Archaeology of San Juan Nextipac". It reads:
"Here, below this park and among ancient pipes, cables and tree roots, were found the remains of houses from the prehispanic epoch. Their location, the materials used, the used objects and objects recovered permitted the archaeologists to infer that their inhabitants were families of high social level.
"In that epoch it was common to place buried persons as offerings below the floors of constructions. Because of this, it was not strange that during the excavations the archaeologists discovered two burials of children, each of them placed in two small, circular pits created with stucco floors. 
"The remains of one infant were inside a pot covered with a top allowing the burning of incense. The other minor was placed directly in the pit in a seated position, with a pottery bowel over its skull."
The illustration in red to the left of this section portrays the outline of the habitation and the location of the two circular graves below its floor.

Reading the sign standing in the little plaza of San Juanico Nextipac, we feel a sense of awe and respect, as if we are virtually standing in the pueblo of the past. We are standing where in the early 1300s the Mexica stayed for four years as they neared the end their pilgrimage to find a home of their own on another island, farther north in Lake Texcoco.

Now, from this brief but informative sign, we know that the island was inhabited at least four hundred years before the Mexica arrived and not just by simple, common people, but by people "of high social level". We deduce that they were likely from nearby Culhuacán, which had already been occupied by the Tolteca Culhuas for three hundred years prior to the building of the houses, and they dominated the area.

And as the sign says, evidence was also found of the pueblo's continuous habitation from 900 CE up to the Spanish Conquest, and on to modern times. So we wonder how descendants of the occupants of these original homes interacted with the itinerant Mexica, and again, two hundred years later, with the Spanish when they arrived.

Finally, we do know that sometime in the 16th century, the Franciscans arrived and built the first chapel where the present church sits, immediately beside the plaza, and dedicated the pueblo of Nextipac to St. John the Baptist.  The congregation they established among the residents still exists and continues to celebrate its existence and identity with lively and frequent fiestas.

And somewhere nearby, below the recently renovated plaza, are the graves of two children buried over one thousand years ago,

To the left side of the church door is a stone or molded cement plaque: 
The glyph, as in the Nahua year count, represents a House or Clan.
Nextlicpac, Over the Ashes


Delegación Iztapalapa (light green)
sits on the mid-east side of Mexico City.

Delegación Iztapalapa,
with all its pueblos (original villages) and colonias (modern developments).


San Juanico Nextipac sits in its northwest corner. 
It is the very small, dark blue, narrow rectangle just above its name.