Santa María Tomatlán is an ancient neighborhood of Culhuacan. It’s thus one of the original settlements of Iztapalapa. But it’s also fiercely proud and independent neighborhood in its own right.
In the photo, one can see the glyph that originally appears in a 1550 map of the region. The town is older than that. The glyph represents a vine bearing five tomatoes. And that’s the clue to the name. Tomatlán is simply “place of abundant tomatoes.”
The town was on the shores of the ancient Xochimilco Lake. Much of the ancient lake was channeled into the old Canal Nacional during the colonial period. (An ancient version of the canal, the Huey Apantli, existed even earlier.)
As such, Santa María Tomatlán grew up as a strong river town prior to our own era. The area immediately in front of the Parish of the Purísima Concepción church was an island This was known simply as “mas arriba,” (i.e.; a little higher) and sometimes as “Mas Arriba Island.” It lent its name to the entire neighborhood until the late 19th century.
It’s still a rugged little place of character. And one where the salty language of passing canoes still flavors something of life here. With San Andrés Tomatlán just up the same canal, today Santa Maria is between that Metro station, and Metro Lomas Estrella.