El Barrio La Santísima Trinidad Chililico is usually just called “La Santísima.” Like all of the Barrios Originarios of Xochimilco’s City-center, it’s among the oldest in the city. To outsiders, it might seem like simply a long island neighborhood. It’s technically three interconnected chinampas, (or former chinampas), and shares a land border only with San Esteban to the south and west.
In about 1576, a local leader named Cuitlalpitoc died. His son, Chililico, succeeded him, and was baptized on the day of Saint Santiago. The Saint, whose image is in the church above, is known in English as Saint James Matamoros, or Saint James, the Moor-slayer, once famously painted by Tiepolo. More to our own story, the local noble leader was thereafter known as Santiago Chililico.
The wood sculpture in the church, dating from the 18th century, remains remarkably intact. This was so even after serious damage from the 2017 earthquakes. The facial features of the Saint remain interestingly indigenous, as historians have noted.
Santiago Chililico then ruled over what had been known as the neighborhood of the Holy Trinity. Only later, the neighborhood adopted their leader’s name, too.
Importantly, the neighborhood was the site of an important wisdom school. Frequented by the ruling classes of Mexico-Tenochtitlán, it’s said that students came from as far away as Central America.
There’s no question that this site was closely connected with the other ceremonial and religious sites known to have been in nearly all of the ancient neighborhoods of Xochimilco. It’s said that with the arrival of the Spanish, many of the most important sculptural works from the area were tossed into the canals to avoid religious scrutiny. It is possible that some remain deeply buried in the canals to this day.
The walk from the San Esteban Chapel to the Barrio La Santísima Trinidad Chililico Chapel is only about 7 minutes. It’s richly rewarding as the religious processions tend to leave the streets and alleyways richly adorned.
Works cited on this page: Xochimilco y sus tradiciones; Santísima Trinidad Chililico De la Cruz López Santos Acevedo 2007 “Xochimilco su historia, sus leyendas” Cordero López Rodolfo 1994, “Santiago apóstol y el heroísmo de Xochimilco” Por: Carlos Scriba