Stone church with a tower and stone cross in front
History,  Mexico,  Monday walks

A stroll around Villa Coyoacán

When the Spanish came the Tepecana allied themselves with the invaders in a shared battle against the Aztecs. Consequently Coyoacán was made the first capital of New Spain for a brief period from 1521 to 1523.

Today its cobbled streets and pretty colonial buildings make it a favourite weekend outing for city-dwellers. But on the weekday morning when we visited there were more tourists than locals. Like us they were drawn here primarily by the town’s major sight, the former home of artist Frida Kahlo, now one of the top attractions in the country. I will take you there one day soon, but for today want to focus on the compact town centre itself. A stroll around will make a pleasant Monday Walk for Jo, I hope.

But first we need to get there! Thanks to the chaos that is Mexico City traffic, the drive with guide Alfonso (who had taken us to Teotihuacan the previous day) took an hour and 45 minutes. That’s probably almost double what it would have done if the traffic had been moving freely. But we enjoyed the journey as there was always something to see, even Bart Simpson driving a truck!

White truck with outline of Bart Simpson on the driver's window
On a street somewhere in Mexico City

Casa Municipal

On arrival we popped into the courtyard of the city hall, as Alfonso told us it was originally the home of Hernan Cortés, a fact most sources dispute. The building dates from the 18th century, replacing an earlier one on this site which was part of Cortés’ administrative complex. It has a lovely courtyard with a bronze sculpture of two people who famously did live in Coyoacán, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. I didn’t get many photos here as it was full of people awaiting their turn for an appointment with a city official. The ones I did get you will possibly recognise from an earlier ‘postcard’!

Bench with a man sitting next to a sculpture of a seated woman and standing man
Statues of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera with a local awaiting his appointment

Jardin Hidalgo

The city hall sits on one side of the Jardin Hidalgo, one of two pretty plazas at the heart of the town. It has some lovely trees, bushes and plenty of seating for shade on a hot day. In the centre is a kiosco, a gazebo with a stained glass cupola topped with a bronze republican eagle. It was under restoration when we were there, so I found it difficult to get a photo of the whole.

Man on a roof with a small stained glass dome and eagle sculpture
The kiosca or gazebo under repair

Jardin del Centenario

Adjoining the Jardin Hidalgo is another, the Jardin del Centenario. This is similar to its neighbour but has at its centre not a gazebo but an attractive fountain.

Coyoacán means ‘place of the coyotes’ and the animal has been adopted as the town’s emblem. There are references to them everywhere, not just on this fountain but on park benches, street signs and topping the building next to the city hall which now houses the public library.

San Juan Bautista

Between the two plazas is the main church of Coyoacán, dedicated to St John the Baptist. You can see the exterior in my feature photo. Although quite plain outside, inside it is stunning, with lots of gold leaf and a beautiful dome.

It is Baroque in style, dating back to the 16th century, and is one of the oldest churches in all of Mexico City. There are biblical scenes painted on the wide barrel vault ceiling, framed by intricate mouldings. The apse has a painting of the Virgin Mary and the dome one of St John baptising Jesus. There are also many ornate side altars with detailed woodwork covered in gold.

In the past the church with its monastery, cloisters etc occupied a far larger area, encompassing the two plazas. The arches that provided the entrance to the courtyard of the monastery still stand, now on the far side of the Jardin del Centenario.

Leaving the church I proposed a coffee and Alfonso took us to a cool little coffee shop with some interesting décor and good drinks.

When we’d finished our drinks it was time for our entry slot to visit the Frida Kahlo museum in the Casa Azul, her former home. I’ll pass over that however, and come back to it in a future post.

Coyoacán Market

After visiting the Casa Azul we explored the nearby market which is aimed at both locals and tourists. For the former there are groceries, fruit and vegetable stalls, butchers stalls and several piled high with different spice and chocolate blends to make a variety of moles, the traditional Mexican sauces. For the latter there are street food vendors and plenty of souvenirs, mostly at the cheap and tacky end of the spectrum. We took lots of photos but didn’t buy anything here.

The streets of Coyoacán

I’ll finish our walk with a selection of shots taken around the historic centre of the town during the course of the morning.

I visited Coyoacán in February 2024


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