San Juan Huitznahuac was a tiny town on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Today that’s called the Calzada Vallejo. But in history, it was the Royal Road to the Interior.
- In 2010, UNESCO recognized the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro as a route between 5 existing UNESCO sites, and 55 significant sites between the Historic Center of Mexico City and Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the United States. That’s a total length of some 2,560 kilometers.
The Nahuatl name Huitznahuac can be translated, roughly as “among the thorns.” Very few historical references to the town exist. Bernardo de Sahagún is believed to have mentioned an important neighborhood, Huitznahuac, and a bridge called “Huitzilan.” That likely would have turned into a bridge like that of the Mendicants, just down the same road. The neighborhood is believed to have been inhabited prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
The road was also known as the Camino de Tolnáhuac, (named for today’s San Simon Tolnáhuac, a little closer to the city) had several towns with inns and support for travelers coming and going.
The San Juan Bautista Huitznahuac church was see today is a 17th-century construction with an 18th-century bell tower. It was likely a visiting chapel for Franciscans from Tlatelolco. It’s existence here is welcome reminder that things were not always as they are today. They’ll likely change again, and so it’s wonderful to have a sense of permanence even if only for a moment.