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La Candelaria Church, Coyoacán

Abierto - Servicios limitados / Capacidad

In the XVII century, the first and third arches of the temple of La Candelaria, made of masonry, were walled up and a turret was added to it. Luis Everaert Dubernard doubts that the image of La Candelaria comes from Guatemala, since four hundred years ago that region did not export images. It is estimated that the representation of the Passion dates from the 16th century (Everaert 1997). The use of the Candelaria pantheon is governed by very strict rules. Only descendants and natives of the town, as well as their wives, have the right to be buried there. This privilege cannot be sold or shared with in-laws who were not born there. The remains are exhumed after seven years due to the limited space available.

The construction of the temple of La Candelaria was finished in the 16th century, probably at the same time as the temple of San Juan Bautista (Aceves 1988: 11) (Cossío 1946: 481) (Gamboa 1991: 53) (Programa de barrios 1980: s.p.i.). It is possible that this open chapel is previous to the foundation of the town, since, according to Jorge Eduardo Aceves, “in the year of 1577 the property of the town is granted to forty families… settling the greater conglomerate in the adjacent lands to the church” (Aceves 1988: 140) (Programa de barrios 1980: s.p.i.).

At the beginning of the 1950s, the church did not have a priest on staff and was attended by priests from the San Pablo Tepetlapa neighborhood and the Adoratorio de San Felipe Neri congregation. Between 1956 and 1957, the old church was demolished at the initiative of the people themselves, without a previous license, with the intention of enlarging it. It began to be rebuilt in 1979 by means of collections organized among the parishioners. According to oral testimonies, in 1988, only some vestiges of the old construction remained since according to testimonies of neighbors “The arches that are now in front… were inside, they were taken out [sic] by the engineer who built it” (Aceves 1988: 182, 186).

The feast of La Candelaria is one of the most traditional in the Coyoacán area (Aceves 1988: 168-169, 186-189); the image, according to tradition, comes from Guatemala and according to testimonies of the inhabitants, is approximately 400 years old. Also held in this temple are various celebrations in honor of guest images from other churches and chapels, such as that of the Precious Blood, that of the Lord of Mercy (he visited the temple twice a year, once in July and in the last week of August), that of San Miguel -which includes a rosary, procession and atole- and that of San Juan Bautista, in which people used to bathe in the town’s ditches. For these occasions, the inhabitants of La Candelaria elaborate large floral portals in the form of an arch, with a frame of cane and grass, covered with chrysalis, carnations, chrysanthemums and noras (Aceves 1988: 168-188).Thanks to the mayordomías, the integration of the majority of the population and the preservation of the trades and customs has been achieved. Each year the cabildos are held to assign the obligations to be fulfilled in the following festivity. These charges, although they represent an excessive economic burden, confer the respect of the community to those who carry them out (Aceves 1988: 168-169, 186-189).

During Holy Week, one of the oldest passions in Mexico is represented. In 1973 it was performed by Salvador Novo and was attended by more than 200,000 people. Another traditional celebration in La Candelaria is the Corpus Christi Thursday procession, which takes place in the streets of the town (La pasión en la Candelaria, Coyoacán 1973: 7). At the back of the temple is the cemetery of La Candelaria, where the Carmelite friar Alberto Zamora was buried, who, at the end of the 19th century, left the order and was secularized, to later become parish priest of Coyoacán (Aguilar 1979: 49).

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