This year Coyoacán celebrates 500 years since it became the first municipal council in the Mexico basin. Hernán Cortes and his guests settled here as the rubble of Tenochtitlan was raised to erect Mexico City on its foundations.
Little is known that the Spaniards’ stay in that place was largely thanks to the support provided by the powerful local leader Ixtolinque, a controversial figure who, in exchange for his help, managed to enforce his power and properties.
To consolidate the alliance with Cortés and, therefore, with the King of Spain Charles V, he converted to Catholicism and was baptized with the name of Juan de Guzmán Ixtolinque. In exchange he received the nomination of governor of Coyoacán and by royal decree he was granted a coat of arms and a noble title; Killing the Cuernavaca cacique, the conqueror’s fierce enemy, helped.
He had enormous political influence and is known to have occasionally heated arguments with Cortés himself. He asked for the establishment of the town hall, which would be the first seat of the government of New Spain.
In the third Letter of Report, of the five that Cortés sent to the Emperor Charles V, he recounted what happened in Coyoacán. He finished writing there on May 15, 1522, but actually arrived with his companions after the fall of Tenochtitlan on October 30, 1521.
The meaning of the name that identifies this ancient area comes from the Nahuatl cóyotl, which means coyote, and hua, a particle which together means “place of those who have or worship coyotes”; The fountain located in the Centenary Garden alludes to this. Since pre-Hispanic times, orchards and leafy groves have surrounded the city, which, according to chronicler Bernal Díaz del Castillo, had six thousand houses built upon the arrival of the Spaniards and numerous tower-shaped shrines.
The Spaniards left their mark on magnificent constructions, some of which still exist, although they have undergone multiple changes over the centuries. One of these is the old town hall of Coyoacán, the current seat of the mayor’s office, which is known as the home of Hernán Cortés, although he never lived there; however, a plaque mentions this fact: often this is how history is made.
For the church it was also an important place; The famous Fray Martín de Valencia and the Franciscans carried out their work of evangelization there, followed by the Dominicans. Of inheritance we have the superb temple and convent of San Juan Bautista, to name the most significant.
During the three centuries of the viceroyalty, Coyoacán was characterized by fertile agricultural land, highly productive orchards and an abundance of water, supplied by countless springs and the rivers that flowed through it. This, coupled with the good weather, led to the population of 1,800 families starting to grow in the early decades of the 19th century with the arrival of people seeking all these benefits and the relative proximity to Mexico City.
In the 20th century, Coyoacán entered modernity; its rocky area became the University City. Its rivers were channeled and turned into avenues, the springs ran out and agricultural land became subdivisions. And there it continues to make history and is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico City.
To conclude the walk, we looked for a place to eat and met a brother from Los Danzantes, the restaurant in Oaxaca we talked about a few weeks ago. With the hope of repeating the pleasant experience, we sat at a table near the window – from where we could admire the Centenary Garden -, it occupies a tastefully furnished neo-colonial building. There are tables outside, but it threatened rain.
It offers some dishes that we have not seen on the Oaxaca menu and they were very tasty: the cream of pork rinds alla placera with tortilla, fresh cheese, avocado and cream and the classic guide soup of the region, with its tender vegetables and chochoyones (small balls of pasta). For the main courses, the charred octopus, which even if it sounds strange is delicious, marinated in achiote, dried chillies and spices and charred on the grill. The tuna in habanero mojo is no exception. From start to finish the accompaniment was the mezcal of the house. Quince pie for dessert is paired with a little chocolate in water.