San Pablo Oztotepec is one of Milpa Alta’s 12 Pueblos Originarios. Centered around the church and former Franciscan monastery of San Pablo Apóstol, it’s a fascinating and rugged mountain town. Ozotepec means “on the hill of the caves” in the Nahuatl language.
The people today are primarly Nahua, descendents of the original Malacachtépec Momoxco settlers. Along with Santa Ana Tlacotenco and San Lorenzo Tlacoyucan, it’s one of the primary places where Nahuatl is spoken in the City.
The town’s history begins in 1483 when seven Nahuatl-speaking Mexica groups from the north managed to overcome the territory of the Chichimeca people. They’d settled in the region in the 12th and 13th centuries. The towns today known as San Mateo, Santa Martha, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz, soon developed, as did the nearby towns of Tecómitl, Ixtayopan, in Tlahuac and Tulyehualco in Xochimilco.
On August 15, 1532, the indigenous people were famously baptized. That accounts, in the record, for the establishment of the towns of Milpa Alta, Atocpan, Oztotepec, Tlacoyucan, Tlacotengo, Tepenahuac, Miacatlán, Tecoxpa and Othenco.
In Independent Mexico, Milpa Alta was part of the State of Mexico. For a time it was dependent on Xochimilco. But in 1854, the Federal District was expanded to include the old Lordship of Malacachtepec Momozco. At the beginning of the 20th century, the revolutionary leader, Emiliano Zapata settled here temporarily. His Plan de Ayala was even ratified in town, in the La Lupita Chapel. In fact, the local headquarters of his army is one of the towns most-visited sites. Some of the demands made during the revolution were met, and the town realized somewhat greater autonomy. This was to their advantage in the long struggle for control of their communal lands.
The San Pablo Apóstol and San Salvador Cuauhtenco Church
The center of the town of San Pablo Oztotepec is the 16th- and 17th-century San Pablo Apóstol Church and Monastery. With a very large atrium, it worked as a churchyard for outdoor services and for the mass baptisms. The surrounding walls are still impressive, hundreds of year later. The facade is sober with a semi-circular arcade which had been an open-air chapel. Inside, you’ll find a sculpture of Saint Paul and an altarpiece dedicated to Saint Michael.
The church in the neighboring town of San Salvador Cuauhtenco is called the Iglesia del Divine Salvador.