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Santa Apolonia Tezcolco is an ancient neighborhood in Azcapotzalco. Today, the colonial chapel is in the neighborhood just to the north, San Francisco Tetecala. Ancient Tepenec people here looked after the royal treasury of Tezozomoc, Azcapotzalco’s most famous and longest-lived ruler.
The Nahuatl name, Tezcolo, translates to “in the twisted mirror.” Alternate spellings of the neighborhood, Tezcalco or Tezcacalco, translate as “in the house of mirrors.” But in all cases, they make reference to the central deity, Tezcatlipoca. Some translators will remake the name as “smoking or smokey mirror.” A god of the obsidian used to make mirrors, he’s associated with a whole range of attributes. The night sky or winds, hurricanes, hostility, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, jaguars, sorcery, beauty, war, and conflict are but a few.
The name likely indicates the presence of an ancient shrine here. Archaeological excavations revealed traces of human occupation. These included living areas suppported by an engineered water supply.
The old neighborhood is just southwest of the Azcapotzalco Historic Center. The church dates from the 17th century. It still contains a very early painting of Saint Apollonia. It predates the church structure and was likely placed in an earlier hermitage in the 16th century. One of a group of virgin martyrs put to death in the mid-2nd century in Alexandria, she’s long been a patron saint of dentistry. According to tradition, her death involved the violent removal of all of her teeth.
The giant atrium shares space with the 20th-century church of the same parish. The simple nave is unadorned and covered by a barrel vault.
The chapel and atrium are just a few minutes walk from Metro Camarones. The truly ancient part of Santa Apolonia Tezcolco is directly to the south of the atrium. One of the 25 Azcapotzalco original settlements, it’s also easy to arrive from Azcapotzalco’s Historic Center.