Santa María Tepepan takes its Nahuatl name, meaning simply “on the hill,” from the fact that it was long the place of a temple to Tonantzin, a mother goddess. The town is well-known because the old temple, and today’s colonial church, appear directly before the Teuhtli volcano at sunrise and sunset on solstice days.
The same volcano donated much of the stone of which the town was built. The area was long populated, but the town began with a hermitage in 1526. Fray Pedro de Gante still receives much of the credit for having founded it.
By 1650, the town counted with eight barrios. And due to resistance, the population broke with Xochimilco and eventually was electing its own governments.
The town, although small, retains much of the character of the mid-20th century when it really expanded. Favored by German immigrants, by the 1940s they’d built many larger homes here. Their giant social club is still the biggest in the area.
The church bell tower has six bells. The oldest was cast in 1682. However the baptismal font is said to date from 1599.
Although it only became a parish in 1965, the church has been reconstructed many times. A 17th century earthquake entirely destroyed vault. In the 19th century, it was remodeled and given the Neoclassical style we see today. During the Revolution, it was a Carrancista stronghold.
The feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is still celebrated here each August 15.
The adjoining monastery was built by Fray Juan de Lazcano between 1612 and 1627. In 1623, it was home to four monks. They were expected to tend to some 300 indigenous subjects. Even in the early 18th century, records note that the priests were struggling to suppress practices associated with the ancient, indigenous religion. Among these, the use of temazcal communal baths was expressly forbidden.
Today, around Santa María Tepepan, visitors find the alluring cobblestoned streets. The former atrium church is the famous town esplanade. And all of it is spread over a seemingly impossible landscape of small hill, valleys, and vistas both grand and enchanting.
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México –
Coordinación Nacional de Monumentos Históricos.
“Ficha del Catálogo Nacional de Monumentos Históricos Inmuebles número
I-09-02298 . -. Disponible en:
Dr. Luis Guerrero Martínez: Tepepan Pueblo