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Santiago Atepetlac is today a neighborhood at the very northernmost point of the important Eje Central avenue. It’s rather unusual for a number of reasons. An ancient town, it’s one of the original settlements of Gustavo Madero. With Zacatenco and Santa Isabela Tola, it’s also one of the ancient towns surrounding the deeply important Tepeyac ceremonial center. Perhaps most unusual, it was long a part of the diocese of Tlalnapantla in the State of Mexico.
The Nahuatl name, Atepetlac, translates roughly to “hill of water.” This is explained by its place as a pilgrimage destination during the ancient period. The devout in that time sought a sign promised by Huitzilopochtli. According to legend, the church is still connected to the pyramids at Tenayuca. Those who’ve sought concrete proof, in a tunnel, or secret connection, have never been heard from again.
In the 1950s, archaeologist Horacio Corona showed that the present church was built on top of a pyramid structure. Other archaeological remains date to even much earlier eras.
In the colonial period, Santiago Atepetlac became part of the parish of San Bartolomé Tizayuca, in Tlalnepantla. Part of that relationship remains to this day although the Santiaguito church is a parish of its own. The dedication to Santiago is due to the Franciscan evangelization early carried out by brothers from Santiago Tlatelolco. The church still holds colonial-era paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Joseph. A sculpture of Santiago Matamoros, atop a white horse is also within the church.
Marcos Cazares Valdez, Notas sobre la Fiesta Patronal de Santiago Atepetlac
Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México – Coordinación Nacional de Monumentos Históricos. “Ficha del Catálogo Nacional de Monumentos Históricos Inmuebles número I-09-01482 . -. Disponible en: http://catalogonacionalmhi.inah.gob.mx/consulta_publica/detalle/12852