Coyoacán is a municipality of Mexico City and the former village that is now the borough's "historic center". The name comes from Nahuatl and most likely means "place of coyotes", when the Aztecs named a pre-Hispanic village on the southern shore of Lake Texcoco that was dominated by the Tepanec people. Against Aztec domination, these people welcomed Hernán Cortés and the Spanish, who used the area as a headquarters during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and made it the first capital of New Spain between 1521 and 1523.
The village and later municipality of Coyoacán remained completely independent of Mexico City through the colonial period into the 19th century. In 1857, the area was incorporated into the Federal District when this district was expanded. In 1928, the borough was created when the Federal District was divided into sixteen boroughs. The urban sprawl of Mexico City reached the borough in the mid-20th century, turning farms, former lakes, and forests into developed areas, but many of the former villages have kept their original layouts, plazas, and narrow streets and have conserved structures built from the 16th to the early 20th centuries.