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Santa Catarina Atzacualco is one of the original neighborhoods of Azcapotzalco. The Dominicans built one of the 27 chapels here in the 16th century. (Those chapels correspond to the neighborhoods recognized today as ancient.) Atzacualco today goes by the name Santa Catarina more often than not. The Franciscans (after the Dominicans) originally dedicated the neighborhood to the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Today, the chapel itself arguably needs to fight for status as the center of the neighborhood with a very old tree. The giant Antiguo Ahuehuete de Santa Catarina dominates the plaza and former church atrium to the east. The tree is likely some 700 years old. Tepaneca people are thought to have planted many such trees in present-day Azcapotzalco. According to legend, they originally transplanted them from their native Michoacán.
The chapel we see today was likely first erected in the 17th century. Badly damaged by an earthquake in the 18th century, builders added the bell tower during repairs thereafter. Parishioners entirely rebuilt the church again in 1933. Conservationists from INAH again detected severe structural damages in the 1990s. The church is still addressing some of them.
Nevertheless, the chapel provides a welcome tone to the plaza out front. Frequently overrun by students from the local primary school, it’s a warm and inviting neighborhood. The Santa Catarina Atzacualco plaza and tree are about a six-minute walk west from Metro Ferrería.