Iztapalapa is located in eastern Mexico City. With a surface of 117.5 km2, it is the fourth largest municipality in the city. It shares borders with Iztacalco in the south, Benito Juárez and Coyoacán in the west; Xochimilco and Tláhuac in the south; State of Mexico municipalities La Paz and Valle de Chalco Solidaridad in the east, and Nezahualcóyotl, also a part of the State of Mexico, in the northeast.
The history of Iztapalapa:
The name Iztapalapa comes from the ancient settlement of Iztapallapan, located between the southern bank of the lake of Texcoco and the northern flank of Mount Huizachtépetl, which was consolidated as a Mexica tributary settlement in the 15th century, following a pact with the Culhuas, a teotihuacan people that had settled in the southeast flank of Mount Huizachtépetl, bathed by the Lake of Xochimilco, during the Classic Mesoamerican period (3rd to 7th centuries A.D.).
Iztapalapa means “water over the flagstones,” which alludes to the situation in which the ancient Mexicans had settled: half on solid land and half on water, using the chinampas system. The Iztapalapan glyph depicts this portion of land surrounded by water.
During the Mexica period, Iztapalapa was part of a confederation that included the peoples of Culhuacán, Mexicaltzingo, and Huitzilopochco (now Churubusco), which was an ally of Tenochtitlán. The main economic and sustenance activities consisted of agriculture based on the construction and sale of chinampas, hunting, and fishing of various poultry and aquatic species through the National Canal and the La Viga Canal.
In 1861, the municipalities were created in the Federal District (Mexico City), and Iztapalapa became part of the municipality of Tlalpan. In 1906, thirteen municipalities were established. Among these was Iztapalapa, which became the municipal capital for the towns of San Juanico, Santa Cruz Meyehualco, Santa Martha Acatitla, Santa María Aztahuacán, San Lorenzo Tezonco, Iztacalco, Tlatenco, and Zapotitlán. In 1929, the municipalities were eliminated, and twelve boroughs called delegaciones were created, including Iztapalapa. In the recent 2017 Constitution, Iztapalapa was established as one of the 16 territorial units of Mexico City, called demarcaciones territoriales.
Following the Revolution, Iztapalapa began its transformation from a rural to an urban territory. The haciendas disappeared, the water reservoirs were drained, the chinampas system stopped being used, and the La Viga Canal was intubated. An accelerated urbanization process was undertaken, first throughout the Ermita Iztapalapa road and Tláhuac avenue, and then in Sierra de Santa Catarina and El Salado, in the vicinity of the Zaragoza road, due to large migrations coming from Oaxaca, Puebla, Michoacán, Guerrero, the State of Mexico, and the city itself, giving rise to the construction of numerous neighborhoods and housing units.
Iztapalapa is ranked among the most commercial and industrial areas in Mexico City. It houses more than seventy thousand industrial, commercial, and service companies, most of them micro and small businesses.
The Central de Abasto (Supply Center) is one of the main markets around the world and the largest in Latin America, welcoming 300 thousand visitors every day and grossing more than eight thousand million dollars every year. It houses the Nueva Viga, where 65% of the national fishing production is commercialized.
According to the 2010 census, Iztapalapa is the most populated territorial unit in Mexico City and in the country, with 1,815,786 inhabitants, who account for its great social, ethnic, and cultural diversity and its natural calling to project itself as the Eastern Cultural Pole of Mexico City.
Iztapalapa’s Sightseeing Routes:
Route 1. Huizachtépetl, Sacred Mount of the New Fire: Iztapalapa emerged in the skirts of Huizachtépetl, an emblematic place for various reasons. At the peak of this sacred mount of our ancestors, we can find the remains of the temple in which one of the most important Mesoamerican ceremonies is celebrated every 52 years, the New Fire Ceremony, which is explored in the New Fire Museum and depicted in the mural “Iztapalapa: yesterday, today, and always”. In that place, we can find the Predio de la Pasión, where the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ is represented during Holy Week, a tradition that draws in more than one and a half million visitors.
Route 2. Yesterday and today, Iztapalapa in History: The ancient and the modern, its past and its present, yesterday and today coexist in Iztapalapa, expressed in its ancient temples, both standing and buried, like the remains of the pre-Hispanic ceremonial center found in the Zócalo of Iztapalapa or the Temple of San Lucas Evangelista , built in the 16th century in the area around the ceremonial center and the Señor de la Cuevita Sanctuary, with reminiscences of the 17th, 19th, and 20th centuries, its traditions, its stewardship and legends, and also its modern buildings, such as the Museum of Cultures: Passion for Iztapalapa, inaugurated in 2012.
Route 3. Culhuacán, Magical Neighborhood of the City: Culhuacán, the place of the culhuas –with whom the Tepanecas hegemonized the entire Mexican Valley– was the school of the Tlacuilos. The first tlatoani or great Mexican lord, Acamapixtli, arose from the mix of the Culhua and Mexica cultures in 1367. In the 16th century, the Augustine Evangelizing Center called Exconvento de Culhuacán was founded there. It had a two-story cloister and frescoes painted with great indigenous craftsmanship. Close by we can find the First Paper Mill in America, which dates back to the 16th century, the Leona Vicario Square,where the Passion and Death of Christ is represented, and the Church of the 19th Century Calvary. Its inhabitants keep the traditions, parties, legends, and pilgrimages in their memories and as part of their everyday life, and they offer them to their visitors with legitimate pride.
Route 4. Memory and Culture, Perspectives from the Museums: Iztapalapa, a mix of countless materials and colors, of clay, stone, metal, celluloid, and acetate, safekeeps its memory and culture inside its museums. The architecture, its arts, its desire, its identity, and its modernity all dwell inside their walls, reflecting the culture of its people, its resistance, its greatness, its contradictions and its harmony, its permanent search for a better world. The Cabeza de Juárez Museum, flagship of the muralist movement, the Museum of Electric Transport of Mexico City, a prelude to efficient, safe, and clean human mobility, and the Museum of Cultures: Passion for Iztapalapa, the view of a people and its social, cultural, and historical environment, all safekeep the memory, the creativity, and the dreams of our people.
Route 5. The Passion, a Living Tradition in Iztapalapa:The center of Iztapalapa, formed by the Eight Barrios, houses cultural assets of a religious nature. Its churches and temples erected on top of indigenous ceremonial centers, like the Temple of San Lucas Evangelista, cbuilt on top of the Tecoalli, dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, represent an important heritage, together with the Engravings of the Stations of the Cross in the barrios of San José and La Asunción, which depict the three falls of Christ, the Señor de la Cuevita Sanctuary, with its legend, and the mural “Iztapalapa: yesterday, today, and always”, which coexist with countless religious festivities, the most important of which is the world-renowned representation taking place during Holy Week, declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mexico City in 2012.
Route 6. From the Sea to your Mouth, Nueva Viga in Iztapalapa: Iztapalapa settled half over solid ground and half over the water, with the chinampas system, producing all kinds of vegetables. Duck hunting and ancient fishing traditions still live in the collective memory, expressed in its rich gastronomic culture. Since then, food has been supplied through different mechanisms: the Tlatelolco tianguis, the parián or the Merced market. Nowadays, the Central de Abasto and the Nueva Viga, the largest fish and seafood market in Latin America fulfill this central function in Mexico City, framed within the history of this people expressed in the mural “Iztapalapa: yesterday, today, and always", the Iztapalapa Zócalo and the Temple of San Lucas Evangelista, built on top of a ceremonial center dedicated to Huitzilopochtli.