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The pilgrim child and the march of migrants

International migrants in their displacement transport countless objects of symbolic value from Mexico to the United States, they carry different foods valued as reservoirs that they preserve in memory as a result of the territorial interaction in which they developed as children, in addition to feelings, perceptions and intimate affections that are part of their individual and social conscience. When they return to Mexico, they bring gifts, photographs and objects destined for their relatives that, in their absence, serve to reaffirm the bond in the distance.

Sociology and anthropology recognize that objects can be "inhabited" with meaning. A gift has the value of a relationship that is cultivated, it is a memory, but it is also a manifestation of symbolic value that is only appraised by those who recognize that there is a history in it that is preserved and affirmed.

In 1996, Chano Hernández, a migrant from Sain Alto, Zacatecas, who lived in Tijuana, Baja California since the 1970s, commented in an interview that when people from Sainalta pass through Tijuana they look for him and come to rest at his house. As they are undocumented, they leave excess weight as an order, then a relative with documents is transported from the United States and picks it up to deliver them later. Among the objects they carry are the religious prints of the Santo Niño de Atocha, photographs, films, key chains, clothes made at home for newborn children, etc. All these objects are linked to the culture of the region and are material repositories of direct affection. Likewise, among the luggage of these migrants we find cheeses, roasted corn, home-baked bread, pinole, cajeta and membretillo wine; in this case it is food linked to family relationships. When these details are discovered, there is no doubt that these objects and foods have a high cultural and affective significance for those who send them and for those who receive them; but what is interesting is that this meaning “travels” with the migrants and is part of their displacement. By venturing into the symbolic value that objects and food hold for migrants, in a similar way, the observation of the image of the Santo Niño de Atocha invites a reflection on its meaning.

The Santo Niño de Atocha constitutes the perfect image of identity for the migrant. There is a popular myth that says that at night the Holy Child leaves his sanctuary and returns at dawn. This myth is also accompanied by comments that give it realism when it is said that in the mornings the Santo Niño has his huaraches full of dust; other people "observe" that the huaraches have been worn out over time by the walk of the wearer. But, in addition, the image carries in its left hand a curved cane at one of its ends and on it hangs a gourd that is used to transport water, while in its right hand it carries a basket that is used in the villages to carry and store food and tortillas. These elements are what make the Santo Niño de Atocha the development of a perfect imaginary of protection for migrants; In addition, it is complemented by the myth that at night he leaves and returns. That is to say, it is about the "pilgrim child" who at night leaves his sanctuary to go where he is invoked.

But it could also be said that Zacatecas is a pilgrim state. A migrant corrido says when referring to the Holy Child of Atocha: "I am also a pilgrim, I come to see the holy child, as I had promised, today I come to visit" (http://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=OZdtg9UOyAQ). This idea of ​​the pilgrim people arose from a radio interview with Profa. María Belén Rodarte, originally from Fresnillo, Zacatecas, who rescued a version of an old record recorded during the Porfiriato with the music of the March of Zacatecas, whose lyrics allude to the march of migrants towards the United States, a human march that extends from the end of the 19th century. And it is that the pilgrimage of the Zacatecans has allowed them to reproduce their culture in places of settlement abroad, hence a characteristic of the Zacatecan migrant is their strong attachment to the entity, expressed as belonging and pride. Precisely in this part it must be recognized that religious manifestations are also reproduced outside the terroir, because these are beyond religion, they really are forms of culture, and for this reason they are impossible to administer.

So, that the Santo Niño de Atocha is an image revered locally and nationally, is also an expression of how this is carried by migrants in their collective consciousness and already abroad it emerges as a means of identity and cohesion of their community life.

There are other antecedents that confirm this fact. In 1996 in Whittier Park in Los Angeles, the migrants proudly exhibited the social works of the 2×1 Program (now 3×1) carried out in their towns and in that environment there was a replica of the Santo Niño de Atocha. Through information from Don Gregorio Casillas I learned that this replica was donated by Bishop Javier Lozano Barragán and is now in a temple in the city of Los Angeles. Some time later, I found in the homes of the Zacatecans of Oakland, California, different images of El Santo Niño de Atocha that the migrants acquire in Plateros, Fresnillo, Zacatecas, "when their bills come to pay" which has surely been a practice of yesteryear. Thus an observation arose: the popular religiosity that is professed in Zacatecas around that image is part of the popular cultures of the region; but, in addition, these cultural practices have been extended to the destinations of migrants to the point of consolidating the idea of ​​a pilgrim child.

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