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Santa María Tepetlalzingo is one of the original settlements of Benito Juárez. In fact, it’s visible as a shaded island on the map of 1521. Though the contours of the island can only be guessed, it was likely a very small fishing village. The Nahuatl name means “small sepulchre or tomb.” So, things already start to get interesting!
Today the church of Santa María de la Natividad Tepetlalzingo stands rather forlorn facing Eje Central. It’s unusual in still presenting an intact atrial wall. Remember, most church atriums were converted to city parks after the mid-19th-century religious reforms.
Our map shows the modern neighborhood of Niños Héroes de Chapultepec. But this is just to give and idea of the larger ancient settlement. The Church is usually referred to as Nativitas, although the Nativitas neighborhood is today directly east.
An original chapel was standing here already in about 1528. By 1585, a larger church was built as part of the efforts of the Franciscans across much of the area. That church was replaced in 17th-century by the one we see today. The temple is of a single nave in the Baroque style.
Through the 20th century, the church as the site of famous and lively processions. A wooden figure of the Virgin Mary was paraded through the streets and is still revered. It’s among very few representations of the Virigin as a child. According to legend, this was originally lent from a church in Santa Fe. It’s said to have miraculously reappeared here after one such procession.