Crossing Borders with the Santo Niño De Atocha

Article excerpt

Latin American Crossing Borders with the Santo Niño de Atocha. By Juan Javier Pescador. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 2009- Pp. xxiv, 256. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-826-34709-1.)

Juan Javier Pescador's thoughtful history of the Santo Niño de Atocha-from its Iberian origins as a Marian devotion (La Virgen de Atocha) through its rise in Zacatecas, Mexico, and spread into northern New Mexico and elsewhere-is a welcome addition for scholars of Catholicism in Mexico and the United States. Geared to a learned audience, it utilizes a wide range of archival and other primary documents, and vividly chronicles the devotion's evolution across borders as a "different way of connecting with the sacred" (p. 170).The first three chapters examine the Spanish Our Lady of Atocha; the rise of the shrine to the Holy Child in Plateros (Fresnillo), Mexico; and the emergence of the "borderlands saint" between 1848 and 1880 reportedly venerated in 1859 by the New Mexican Severiano Medina in his village chapel. A final, lengthy chapter points to the importance of that legacy (as well as other Mexican popular devotions) in Mexico, South Texas, the Midwest, and Guatemala.

Dominican missionaries in Zacatecas embraced the devotion to the Holy Child, who is portrayed either as a boy pilgrim or baby prince, during the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth century the priest of the local parish ran the nearby chapel shrine. By the early-nineteenth century, Santo Niño, now fully detached from Our Lady of Atocha, had risen to prominence as protector of silver miners in Zacatecas. Subsequently, Mexican laborers brought him along in their migrations, and the devotion spread north over the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Various sites emerged as far as northern New Mexico, where, in the late-nineteenth century, the image was placed at the Sanctuary of the Señor de Esquípulas in Chimayó. It sparked considerable fervor from near and far, and eventually overtook the previously dominant icon. In the 1930s, however, tensions arose between Mexican-American devotees and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which, as new custodian of the shrine, downplayed the reputation of the Santo Niño, causing the locals to center their veneration once again at the Medina Chapel (a former Penitente morada). …