San Agustín Ohtenco is one of the smallest of Milpa Alta’s pueblos originarios. It’s also the least commercial, and the town with the youngest population. It’s very nearly thought of as the eastern neighborhoods of Villa Milpa Alta, the main town in the area. It’s historically closer to, and often considered a southern neighborhood of San Francisco Tecoxpa.
Ohtenco, from the Náhuatl, can be translated as “Place at the side of the road.” Even the chapel is new (relatively speaking). The Parish Church of San Agustín Ohtenco was begun in 1980 and completed in 1986. Built of steel and concrete, the church style combines neoclassical details. The The bell tower was built with a series of semicircular arches. Some of the faithful here, like many in Milpa Alta, will make the pilgrimage to the Chalma Sanctuary, to the west in the State of Mexico.
But in recent years, the town has very much become a destination in itself.
The International Festival of Chinese Lanterns and Balloons lights up the night sky every year in time for the local Day of the Dead celebrations. It’s no small-town event. Celebrated since 1996, just about every year it gets bigger. The skies are lit-up as far as they eye can see with floating Chinese paper balloons.
San Agustín Ohtenco is often considered the youngest of the 12 pueblos originarios. With that, it has a lot of energy, enthusiasm and spirit. Even if you’re just passing through on your way to the FARO Art School in nearby Miacatlán, do have a look around. And plan on coming back for Day of the Dead festivities.