Las Merceditas: Templo de Belén was founded in 1626 by the Merced Order. The convent was organized in response to the work of an indigenous woman name María Clara. She supported the local priesthood for some 11 years thereafter. It came to be the dominant agricultural power over the lands to the south in today’s colonia Doctores.
By 1686, the complex came to be an institute of higher learning for the order, and that lasted until the mid-19th century. Today, the church is almost all that remains. It dates from 1678 and was rebuilt in 1735.
Two 19th century buildings betray some of the property’s 17th century origins as a school. It’s also home to a very famous painting brought, by the Merced, from Guatemala.
Today the entire complex still stands out next to the Civil Registry that’s taken up most of the old atrium. That’s today the Plaza Capitán Rodríguez M. or Plaza de la Identidad-Registro Civil.
It’s still a prominent place on the old road to Chapultepec. Prior to Maximilian’s Paseo de la Reforma, (in the late 1860s), it was the church on the old Camino Del Emperador. The still-famous Paseo de Bucareli joins that old road, today’s Avenida Chapultepec just to the west. Here, the same avenue is still called Arcos de Belén, after precisely this Bethlehem church. It’s just a few blocks to the west of the Salto del Agua market and Metro station.