Q: Who is the Niņo de Atocha (Christ-child of Atocha)?

A: The Santo Niño de Atocha is a very popular devotional figure in Spain, Mexico and New Mexico. Its origin may be related to Our Lady of Atocha, in Madrid, Spain, mentioned already in the "Cantigas" of King Alphonse the Wise in the 13th century. The Atocha Niño is one of the popular santos, a Christ-child figure like the Infant of Prague or the so-called El Niño Perdido. The Santo Niño de Atocha is dressed like a boy pilgrim wearing a hat and ornate cloak with the St. James shell, holding a basket with food or roses in one hand and a pilgrim's staff (to which a water gourd is fastened) in the other. The Child is said to roam the hills and valleys bringing aid and comfort to the needy, and thereby wearing out his shoes. Pilgrims to the Santo Niño chapel in Chimayo, New Mexico bring him new shoes and place them at his feet. The Santo Niño de Atocha is pictured both as retablo (painting) and as bulto (wooden sculpture). There are also older representations in different cultures, for example, the Niño de Atocha in the style of Cusco, Peru.

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