San Pedro Atocpan is an important one of the twelve Pueblos Originarios of Milpa Alta. It’s believed to have been settled between the years of 120 and 140 CE. The people are said to be the descendants of one of seven Nahuatlacan tribes who lived on the southern banks of the lake, even that long ago.
The Nahuatl word, “Atocpan” means “on fertile land,” and it’s been primarily an agricultural community since its earliest recorded history. During the post-classical period, the population was subject to Xochimilco. Early in the colonial period, it passed under Franciscan control. They’re believed to have begun work on the church in 1570. The enormous atrium gives an idea of the size of the population expected to gather for religious rites and feast days.
The former monastery, directly south of the temple, has an old cloistered living quarters. It’s a fascinating historical site to visit all on its own.
San Pedro became a municipality only in 1864. It remained so until after the Mexican Revolution. The town was the site of only minor skirmishes despite Milpa Alta’s strident support of the Zapatista troops. The town would later benefit during the land reforms that followed in the 1920s. But apart from this, it was largely the same until the 1960s. Homes were lit with candles and kitchens relied on lard and firewood.
San Pedro Atocpan really came into its own when a few families began home businesses dedicated to the production and sale of mole. The chocolatey sauce took off and Mexico City became its largest consumer. By the mid 1970s, the town was producing between eight and ten tons of the sauce every day. Soon, 90% of the population was dedicated to its production and sale.
International visitors will want to head to The Plaza San Martin. The ornate plaza is home to the Chapel of San Martin Caballero and is the original chapel devoted to the Señor de las Misericordias (Lord of Mercy). Local residents knew the figure as Yencuictlalpan, and that name remains for the kiosk in the park.