Sometime in the 16th Century, a tradition took root in Mexico in the form of an image representing NiñoDios or Child Jesus. This image took various forms and various names, but oldest and most venerated is found in the Mexico City southern borough of Xochimilco. The Child Jesus of Xochimilco, Niñopa or Niñopan, was created some 430 years ago in the communities San Bernardino Monastery. Unlike many church relics, Niñopa is placed in the possession of the community instead of being kept secured in a Church facility. Each year a new family, or Mayordomo, is selected to take custody of the Image and sponsor various events throughout the year. Despite the demands of being a Mayordomo, some families have waited as long as 50 years have the honor of taking custody of the image.
73-year-old Gloria Medina waited over thirty years to become the Mayordoma in 2018. On February 2, 2019 she passed on her sponsorship to the new Mayordomo, the Serralde Huerta family. During the transition, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar took the Niño from Ms. Medina and placed it into the hands of the Jorge Serralde Herta who had waited 35 years for the honor. Jorge's father placed the family's name on the list of the hopefuls but then he passed away a few years ago, and Jorge had to present himself before the Commission and request that the privilege be transferred to him.
The tradition imposes several significant responsibilities on the Majordomos. First, the physical responsibility of this fragile 430-year-old Image is one that cannot be overlooked. The Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) has provided strict guidelines on the handling of the Niño which includes guidelines about the dresses of the image (which are not to include any buttons or hard material that can come in contact with the body), sheltering from direct sunlight and flash photography, and general guidelines about the handling of the image when taken to excursions or when the public come to it for blessings. Additionally, INAH provides a “pediatrician” service once a year to make sure the Niño remains in good condition.
Second, the Mayordomo is responsible for the presentation, either public or private, of the Niño for various religious events. These events may occur at the home of the Mayordomo or at specific locations. The Niñopa is a busy child; responsibilities include visiting the poor, the sick, and orphanages where he brings his blessings. The Mayordomo is also responsible for sponsoring various parties and religious events by providing food for all attendees. The nightly Rosary is always at the Majordomo's home and open to the public—in fact, anytime the Niño is in the home, the home must be open to the public who can come and go freely. Jorge Serralde who is the current Majordomo (2019) had his responsiobilities in mind when he built his home and had an additional alcove built for worshipers to have a space to be and built an additional space for the placement of the Niñopa during his stay at Jorge's home.
Despite these serious obligations, Ms. Medina says that during the year of her being the Mayordoma, “[her] faith grew and [she] learned a lot of things” and that the entire process has brought her closer to the Niño. Living and caring for the Niño for an entire year provided a different and more intimate relationship with her faith and with the Niño, versus other expressions of her faith.
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