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Photo: Patricia Alzuarte Díaz on Wikimedia Commons

The old Chapel of San Juan Evangelista Huacalco is a tiny chapel of enormous legend. Today it’s almost lost inside the Cuitláhuac housing development in Azcapotzalco. The building we see today dates from the 17th century. It’s said to have once contained a funerary monument dedicated by the huey tlatoani Izcoatl to his mother. A contemporary sculpture by artist Rosa Maria Ponzanelli, today depicts Izcoatl himself, in memory of the old eulogistic work.

The Legends

Although the chapel was likely built to serve the population of one of the area’s haciendas, some historians have indicated that the church is very well-known. According to legend, this is because Hernán Cortés himself hid in a part of a farm here in 1521. This was, according to the same legend, after the incident at the Tree of the Victorious Night in Popotla. The tree is about a half-hour’s walk south. The Cuitlahuac road, at the time, was lined with lagoons and this may have been one of the few dry spots.

After this, the historical record is almost silent. Residents of the area asked for permission to finally repair the tiny chapel only in 1919. In December of 1966 it finally become a parish church. Soon after, in 1968, the parish priest requested permission to demolish a 20th-century atrial wall. This was so that the parish could erect a new church next door. They remodeled the old one at the same time, although the work was not completed until 1982.

Having never been a town, the Parroquia San Juan Apostol y Evangelista is today almost the only way that the name Huacalco is remembered.  The place of the huacal, the Nahuatl name refers to a type of usually hanging or hand-carried basket. These baskets may have been associated with older populations who pre-dated the Nahua-speaking Tepenec and Mexica. The name may refer to a local cottage industry in basketmaking using reeds from the surrounding wetlands.

Sources cited on this page:
WikiCity: Capilla de San Juan Evangelista Huacalco


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