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Santo Niño de Atocha statue

The Santo Niño de Atocha is a Roman Catholic depiction of the Child Jesus and is popular in the Hispanic cultures of Spain, Mexico, Philippines and the southwestern United States, especially New Mexico.

Contents

History

During the 13th Century, Spain was under Umayyad conquest of Hispanic by the Moors. The town of Atocha was lost to the Muslim invaders, and the Christians there were taken prisoners. The Christians were placed on strict punishments and prohibitions, and the devout prisoners were denied food by their captors. Eventually, only children under the age of 12 were permitted to bring them food. The women of Atocha knew that most of the people in the jails could not survive under such conditions. They were praying before the statue of Our Lady of Atocha, they pleaded for the Blessed Virgin Mary to ask her son Jesus Christ for help.

Reports began to spread among the people of Atocha that a child under the age of twelve had begun to bring food to childless prisoners. The child was dressed in pilgrim's clothing.

When the women of Atocha heard of the miraculous Child, they returned to Our Lady of Atocha and thanked the Virgin for her intercession. Looking upon the image of the Madonna, they noticed that the shoes worn by the Infant Jesus held by Our Lady of Atocha were tattered and dusty. The shoes were replaced but became soiled once again. The people of Atocha saw this as a sign that the Infant Jesus went out every night to help those in need. It is said that he does many miracles, especially to children.

Devotion beyond Atocha

The Moorish conflict extended well beyond the town of Atocha. During dire points in their journey, travelers reported that a young boy, dressed as a pilgrim, would come to them bringing food and other necessities. The boy would often travel with them until they were out of danger and then guide them to the safest roads to reach their destination. The miraculous Child was always considered to be the Infant Christ and was given the title the Holy Child Of Atocha.

The Holy Child Of Atocha was also said to have saved miners who were trapped in a mine shaft. He does many miracles and millions believe in him all over the world.

Mexico

El Santo Niño de Atocha (holy card).

After the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, a Spanish general went to explore the northern lands of New Spain. He and his troops came to a place where an ash tree stood at the edge of a lake. They decided to name the place Fresnillo. They named the land where Fresnillo was located the state of Zacatecas because it was abundant in grass. While a town was being built in Fresnillo some miners were out near the lake when a mule came from the west. The mule carried a giant wooden crate on its back. The miners decided to take the crate off the mule for a little while so it could rest and drink water. However, once the miners removed the crate the mule ran away leaving the miners the wooden crate. When the miners opened the crate they were shocked to find a silver crucified Christ (called a "Corpus") with no cross. The general ordered a church be built across the valley and named the city Plateros, (the Spanish word for silver is "plata") because the location was where the silver Christ was discovered. The general then ordered an image of Our Lady of Atocha to be brought from Spain to Plateros. The image was put in the church of Saint Augustine along with the silver Christ.

In those years silver was discovered in Fresnillo and mines were being opened in the mountains near the settlement. Within a few weeks of the opening of the mine of Fresnillo, there was an explosion and many miners were trapped. The wives of the miners went to the church of St. Augustine to pray for their husbands and noticed that the child on the image of Our Lady of Atocha was missing. At the same time, it was said that a child came to the trapped miners, gave them water and showed them the way out of the mine. Whenever there was a problem at the mine the child helped the miners in need. Each time this happened, the image of the child on the Virgin's arms was found to be dirty and his clothes had little holes in them. After that the Holy Child was taken off his mother's arms and put on a glass box for everyone to see. The Holy Child of Atocha has become a symbol of Zacatecas and the protector of miners. Many make pilgrimages to Plateros at Christmas to bring toys to the Holy Child.

Appearance

The Holy Child of Atocha is depicted dressed as a boy pilgrim. He wears a hat and a very ornate cloak and holds a basket full of bread in one hand and a pilgrim's staff in the other. In art, the Holy Child's basket is sometimes shown empty, giving the impression that he has been out serving the needy; however, reports given by those who saw the Holy Child claim that his basket never ran out of flowers. Also, his pilgrim's staff is often depicted with a water gourd fastened to it.

In later years, a shell pattern called the Shell of Saint James was pictured on the cape on his outfit. This identifies the Saint Atocha with northern Spain the destination of many who fled from the Moors, because the St. James Shell is a symbol of the pilgrims to the Shrine of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

Pop Culture and Other References

In the film Napoleon Dynamite, Pedro suggests placing santos around the hallways of his high school, recommending El Santo Niño de Atocha. He say that his Aunt Concha has seen him.

Santo Niño de Atocha is sometimes associated with the Yoruba orisha Eshu, or Elegua.

This Santo appears in the 1991 Novel Mojo and the Pickle Jar, by Douglas Bell.

In Michael Jacksons video for "Beat It" there is a picture of the Santo Niño above his bed.

On the popular television sitcom "George Lopez" the Santo Niño de Atocha is displayed in the family's kitchen.

See also

External links

http://www.fatherbill.org/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=146

Coordinates: 23°13′34″N 102°50′28″W / 23.22611°N 102.84111°W / 23.22611; -102.84111

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