Founded in the 7th century CE, Coyoacán is one of the oldest and richest delegations in the metropolis. “The coyotes’ place”, Coyoacán was initially inhabited by the Colhuas from Culhuacán and the abundant nature bewitched Cortés who, after the Conquest of Tenochtitlán, erected the first town hall in New Spain, here.
The zone no longer has its natural fertility; the estates which first urbanized the place, channeled the natural springs turning the fields into houses and the colored flowers into cobblestone. Gradually, the urban part expanded over the land of the coyotes originally known for its colonial charm. The peculiar mystery that one can still breathe attracted several generations of both national and foreign intellectuals.
Amongst distinguished locals are Octavio Paz, “El Indio” Fernández, Salvador Novo, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. The houses have been adapted to museums, and the fortress of “El Indio” Fernández opens its doors during the Day of the Dead celebrations: this house was designed by Luis Barragán.
Here we present some of the most attractive sites of Coyoacán:
Saint John Baptist Church
This amazing site was built between 1522 and 1552 and it is located in the main plaza within Coyoacán’s cultural downtown; It was born with Cortés giving it to the Franciscan monks. We recommend you to find the altarpiece within the cloister of the church,as well as its massive decorated roofs. Once you have finished there you can hang around the kiosk that dates back to Porfirian period and that it is used as a concert stand or a puppet show room.
Blue house, Frida Kahlo Museum
One of the most representative museums of the city (in part because it was the setting for the Hollywood production of Frida), the house is a brief detour into the painter’s life, family, home and her first incursions into painting.
National Sound Archive
This beautiful 18th century building was once inhabited by Octavio Paz. Now administered by Mexico’s Culture administration (CONACULTA), it’s the headquarters for several workshops and cultural events. Visit their schedule when you stop in.
Leon Trotsky Museum
A couple of blocks from the Blue House/Frida Kahlo Museum, this museum exhibits multiple pieces from the last years of the life of the Russian Communist. The museum is divided into a permanent collection and the different events, exhibitions and movie exhibitions.
It is located parallel to Francisco Sosa, in one of the principal streets of the neighborhood; this sinuous little alley is said to be bewitched. Even when the existence of ghosts is highly disputable, the exquisite Neocolonial architecture makes this zone one of the calmest in the area. Once there, you can go for a coffee or visit the fortress of the “Indio” Fernández.
Santa Fe is one of those “new, new, new” areas in the west of Mexico City. So new that lots of Mexico City residents have never been there, and many of them will never go. But Santa Fe is, like all of Mexico City, loaded with history and curious facts that make it always worth looking into a little deeper.
During the long colonial period, the area was devoted to grazing animals and mining the relatively poor soil. The regions was divided into the towns of Santa Fe, Santa Lucia, San Mateo and San Pedro Tlaltenango Cuajimalpa. The villages were intersected by the Royal Road, New Spain’s first toll road that ran all the way to Toluca (and still does). Today it’s still known as the Vasco de Quiroga highway and the toll booth is still located in the nearby Contadero neighborhood.
Named in honor of the first bishop of Michoacan’s “Hospital of Santa Fe,” Vasco de Quiroga was that famous friar who taught different skills to the various peoples of Michoacan. He also started numerous hospitals that provided not only for the sick but for pilgrims and travelers.
Upon arriving in New Spain, Vasco de Quiroga took a look at the sorrowful state of things and got to work. Sent as a sort of a judge of the “Second Audiencia of Mexico,” which ruled from 1530 – 1534, he ended up founding both the Hospital and the Pueblo Santa Fe with his own money. Vasco de Quiroga’s believed primarily that charity would be the only way he could really make a difference. His attempt to redeem the fallen landscape led him to undertake no less than the founding of Thomas More’s Utopia, right here on Earth.
Within a few years, the hospital was itself called Pueblo Santa Fe, literally the “people of Santa Fe.” And after 1532, the project essentially took on a life of its own and began to expand to other congregations and to form similar hospitals and social charity projects wherever it went. Quiroga maintained control over nearly all of them and enforced a set of rules he’d written down himself.
Some of the rules still carry Quiroga’s idea of exactly how this was to translate into a Utopia on Earth. According to notes in the collection of the Institute of Historical Research of the University of Michoacan, “Parents should ensure the marriages of their children with daughters from other families in the same Pueblo-Hospital. Failing that the daughters of the poor from the same neighborhood could also be married.” Men were considered marriageable at fourteen, and women at twelve. In the extended family, all members were required to obey the eldest grandfather. Wives were to obey husbands, and children were to serve and obey parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Any need for servants from outside the family was to be avoided.
Santa Fe is said to be the remnant of that famous Utopian village. The ostentatious city of today grew up from the ashes of that early attempt at a perfect society. And though many Chilangos will still find it hard to believe, something of that hope and vision is likely still evident in the towers and underpasses that stand there today.