San Sebastián Atenco is one of the 25 pueblos originarios, that is, the original villages of Azcapotzalco. The Saint Sebastian name also graces the neighborhood’s main east-west avenue, the Calzada San Sebastián.
The town long predates the arrival of the Dominicans who settled most of what is central Azcapotzalco today. Like in San Lucas Atenco, the name means, “place at the water’s edge.” This is believed to have been the main wharf for Azcapotzalco, known then as Acalotenco. It likely would have received trade vessels from suppliers across the Valley of Mexico. These would have included Tepaneca people among others.
The Temple of San Sebastián Mártir today is just as likely to refer to itself as the “Church of San Sebastián Atenco.” The building we see today replaced an earlier 17-century structure. Construction on this church began in the late 19th century in a Neo-Colonial style. Today, the church is best-known for its twin bell towers of five bodies each. These flank a main façade of three bodies underneath that distinctive undulating roof line. A semicircular arch over the main entrance leads the eye up to a niche where the Saint Sebastian figure can still be seen. The entire church is clad in tezontle and finished in gray quarry stone. Parts of an original 17th-century façade may also be observed.
The church is perhaps a 15-minute walk from the Jardín Hidalgo and from most points in the Center of Azcapotzalco.