The Puerta de Tlaltenco is easily the most visible colonial-era structure in Tlaltenco. The stone arch was used during the late colonial period as a customs checkpoint. Those transporting goods overland had to stop here to pay a tax on goods being moved on the canal. For most of the 18th century, it was simply called La Aduana, that is, “the customs checkpoint.” The stone structure only came into use on June 30, 1789, but the checkpoint existed here long before.
In fact, it marks one of the points on a system of dikes built under the direction of Cuitlahuac II to control water flow. Like many of these hydrologic works, it later became a calzada or causeway. And this was next to the canal used to move heavier goods on canoes and canal barges, even until the end of the colonial period. There is a twin gate standing still at the entrance to Tulyehualco in what is now Xochimilco. Unfortunately, that arch was damaged during the Mexican Revolution. This is the only one of its kind that remains.
The Puerta de Tlaltenco was also a checkpoint for people transporting cattle. These had to pay a fee based on the type of hoof, either full or split. This fact was noted by Alexander de Humboldt on his visit to New Spain in the late 18th century.
Today, visits are usually combined with trips to some of Tlaltenco’s other sites. The arch is an easy trip from both Metro Tlaltenco and Metro Tlahuac. The truly adventurous will continue on to the Lake of the Aztec Kings, for lunch and a boat ride.