Sanctuary of the Holy Child of Atocha

Templo del Santo Niño de Atocha

Introduction by Nicole Duran

Descriptions by Dr. Shelley Armitage

For two centuries people have made pilgrimages to the Santuario de Plateros, located in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, to celebrate the devotion to El Santo Niño de Atocha de Lagos, considered the third most important pilgrimage site in Mexico. At the entrance of the sanctuary, a quote that states Tierra de la Fe y los Milagros [Land of Faith and Miracles] embodies what Santo Niño de Atocha signifies. Many people who make the journey recall witnessing various miracles. The devotion to the Holy Child of Atocha comes from Spain and dates to the thirteenth century. The Spanish devotion refers to the image of Our Lady of Atocha with Christ the Child on her arms. However, the image of Christ the Child was detached from the arms of His Mother when a woman was about to give birth. In Mexico, the devotion started when workers were trapped inside a mine after an explosion. While the wives were praying for their husbands, they noticed Christ the Child was missing from the arms of Our Lady. At the same time, a child appeared to the trapped miners and gave them water and show them the way out of the mine, thus, becoming the protector of miners. Many miracles are attributed to him as one story describes the time when two men were camping in Plateros and one of the men murdered his companion out of greed and was shortly arrested. While the man was in imprisoned, he dreamed of the Holy Child of Atocha telling him to ask for forgiveness. When the man visited the church of Plateros, he confessed and repented, which set of a chain effect of reported miracles.

Ex-Voto Figure 1.

Holy Child of Atocha of Lagos/El Santo Niño de Atocha de Lagos.

Anonymous, Mexico. May 4, 1877.

Oil on tin. 10 x 7”. NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1966.5.46.

Donor: Mr. C. Andrew Sutherland.


This vertical composition features a male supplicant kneeling on the left upper half of the composition as he faces the Holy Child of Atocha surrounded by clouds in the upper right-hand corner of the scene. The supplicant is dressed formally and holds his hands in gratitude, his face lifted to the Holy Child. The toes of his shoes slightly cross from the floor where he is kneeling into the text below suggesting the connection between his experience and the telling of his story. A decorative script surrounds him as if the story is currently being told. One of the floating words is “Dios.” The supplicant, Don Juan Garcia and his sister, Maria Lucaria Garsial, are thankful to the Holy Child for freeing him from being captured by the army. The carefully printed text lies at the bottom of the composition over a white background.

Transcription and Translation:

[En el año de 1877 del mes de Mayo el diá 4 del mismo le][(?)(?) á D. Juan Garcia que lo agarraron biniendo del mon][te de Gaspar; luego lo echaron de militar y yo como hermana][qe al pronto supe qe otro dia hiva a salir para tepi se lo][encomende al Sto. Niño de Lagos por donde habien-donos][echo el milagro le asemos este Retrato y quedo libre de][todo; ya estando en el esaye que todos los Dias lo daban y este][pedimento lo hiso Ma Lucaria Garsial]

In the year 1877 in the month of May on the fourth day, they seized Don Juan Garcia coming from Mount Gaspar; and then threw him into the army and I as [his] sister as soon as the other day [he] was going to leave for Tepi[c?] commended him to the protection of the Holy Child of the Lakes and for having given us the miracle we made this portrait and he was free of everything; having already been in the ? which every day they gave him and Maria Lucaria Garsial made this petition.

Ex-voto Figure 2.

Holy Child of Atocha of Lagos/El Santo Niño de Atocha de Lagos 

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. 10 x 7” NMSU Art Gallery Collection # 1965.2.9.

Donor: Mr. Fran E. Tolland.


Two men kneel before an apparition of the Holy Child of Atocha whose image is elevated in the upper right-hand corner surrounded by clouds. The men are dressed in white shirts and black trousers; their hats on the ground before them. Their hands are lifted in prayer. The tonal properties of ochre and pale orange resonate between the wall behind them, the floor, and the accoutrements of the Holy Child’s dress. A decorative tin frame caps the top portion of the ex-voto. The lower third of the composition is white and the text in illegible.  Text: Illegible.

Ex-Voto Figure 3.

Holy Child of Atocha of Lagos/El Santo Niño de Atocha de Lagos.

Anonymous, Mexico. September 1902.

Oil on tin. 7 ¼ x 10” NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1966.5.58

Donor: Mr. C. Andrew Sutherland.


In this very active scene a man is thrown from his horse in pursuit of a rampaging bull and is dragged behind the horse over a rocky landscape. In the upper left corner is the Holy Child of Atocha whose staff isextended outside his aura as if to influence the scene below. The text, though illegible, completes the scene in the bottom third of the composition. Text: Illegible.