San Gregorio Atlapulco is one of Xochimilco’s original settlements. It’s among the most fascinating of the Chinampa Towns, those that still practice extensive canalside farming, on floating manmade islands called chinampas. Like neighboring San Luis Tlaxialtemalco, it’s also on the northern slopes of the Teuhtli volcano. This gives the two towns an inspiring atmosphere. That’s true even when the volcano isn’t always invisible to the south.
The Nahuatl word atlapulco translates to “where the water flutters,” or in “the lands of the mud.” Settlement began in the Upper Preclassic period. Early inhabitants likely included both groups related to Teotihuacan peoples and nomadic peoples. Xochimilca people eventually displaced them and the area remained under Xochimilca control. In 1430 they fell under the control of Tenochtitlan. A glyph representing Atlapulco is included in the Mendocino Codex of the mid-16th century.
It was, and is, a very important food production region, Medicinal plants have always made up an important part of total cultivation.
The Colonial-Era Town
San Gregorio Atlapulco, the colonial-era town, was founded in 1555. This date belies the fact that the Spanish seem to have had considerable trouble making a congregation here. Inhabitants were only eventually coerced into a formal Spanish relationship with the church and government in 1555. The Feast of Pope Gregory (as he’s usually known in English), is celebrated on the day of his death in 604 CE; March 12th. That date, though, still recalls ancient rituals and festivals honoring Chicomecoatl.
- A Mexica goddess of subsistence, Chicomecoatl is especially important to the cultivation of corn. She’s also looked to for the support of all plant life, and thus for fertility, too. The religious festivities of today include Conchero dances and similar calls to the old patroness.
The 2017 earthquake very nearly devastated the town. The market and some 465 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged. The market and about 75% of the homes have been restored since then. It’s a remarkable and beautiful town where the farmfields are never far away. Most guests will arrive via the Xochimilco Light Rail. Mini-buses from there take about 45 minutes. The RTP bus takes a bit longer. Bus #142 leaves from the Avenida 16 de septiembre at Av Cuauhtémoc about every 12 minutes.