The San Lorenzo Atemoaya Chapel is just south of the Bosque de Nativitas. One of Xochimilco’s 14 original settlements, it’s often confused with the Barrio San Lorenzo Tlaltecpan which has its own equally charming chapel. The other pueblo of San Lorenzo Xochimanco just adds to the confusion.
The name Atemoaya is from the Náhuatl, meaning “where the water falls, making waves.” The date of the town’s foundation is unknown. It was certainly a village at the end of the 17th century and the church dates from at least this time. Many early post-conquest settlers in the village were people moving between Xochimanco and Tepalcatlalpan. During the Porfiriato period, the entire town was considered a neighborhood of the town of Nativitas.
A much earlier church is said to have been founded by Franciscans who visited only for Sunday and holiday masses. This was replaced some hundreds of years later. The sacristy and a hospice were completed in the 18th century and the entire temple was rebuilt in 1796. Most of what you see today dates from that period, although the floor was replaced in 1984. During this remodeling, the tombs from the atrium were removed and the kiosk was added. The three semicircular arches supporting the bells provide the dramatic asymmetrical façade of San Lorenzo Atemoaya with its most distinctive feature.
Today, the neighborhood has changed and is continually adapting. But festival days often include fireworks and concerts. These are quite often still held right outside the church. And don’t miss the fact that the atrium, covered today, also extends northward into one of the town’s only parks. It’s a terrific place to find oneself.