Our Lady of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe) is a Marion apparition from December 12, 1531 that blends Aztec and Christian traditions into the icon of Mexican cultural identity. Like the Mexican people, our Lady of Guadalupe is mixed race and has a multicultural identity.
The cloak is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City.
The Context for Our Lady of Guadalupe
It does not matter whether you consider Our Lady of Guadalupe to be religious fact or myth. What is important is her impact on the hearts and minds of the people.
If you are not Latin, Marian apparitions may seem silly. If you are Latin, Marian apparitions may be very real.
This apparition happened in 1531, just ten years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. The Aztecs were one of the great civilizations of the Americas. At their height, the Aztecs were more advanced than the Europeans in some ways.
To put ourselves in context, imagine that a spaceship landed in Washington D.C. Then space creatures took over our country and forced us to convert to their religion. That would be a pretty big psychological shock. We would probably try to hold onto our traditions wherever possible. We would look for ways to make sense of what happened in order to survive.
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Story
This story was created by the Mexican people. It was not created by the Catholic church. Though it is now part of the Catholic story, the priests did not accept it at first.
Juan Diego was a native Mexican peasant. That means he was Aztec, an Indigenous American. In a vision on the Hill of Tepeyac, a woman asked Juan Diego to build a church for her on the site. She spoke to him in the Aztec language Nahuatl.
Juan Diego told the archbishop of Mexico City about his vision, but the archbishop dismissed it. Mary appeared to Juan Diego again and asked him to keep trying.
Juan Diego spoke with the archbishop again and was instructed to go back to the spot and ask for a sign to prove that she was indeed the Virgin Mary. The Virgin appeared and told Juan Diego should would provide a sign on the next day.
On the next day Juan Diego’s uncle was dying so Juan Diego took care of him instead of visiting the hill.
On his way to the hill on the day after (December 12), the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego and scolded him for not believing in her. She told Juan Diego that his uncle was now well, and that he should go up the hill and gather flowers.
Nothing grows on that hill in December, but when Juan Diego went up the hill, he found Castilian roses that are not native to Mexico. Those are Spanish roses. Juan Diego put the flowers in his cloak and went to see the archbishop.
When Juan Diego opened his cloak in front of the archbishop, the roses spilled out revealing the image of Our Lady that is revered today.
On the next day, Juan Diego discovered that his uncle was indeed well. The Virgin Mary had appeared to Diego’s uncle and asked to be known as Guadalupe.
The Meaning of Our Lady of Guadalupe
You are entitled to your own interpretation of the meaning of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Before the Spanish conquest, there was a temple to the Aztec mother goddess Tonantzin on the hill of Tepeyac. The Virgin of Guadalupe spoke the Aztec language Nahuatl. She is a dark-skinned woman of mixed race.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is revered because she is not entirely foreign. She is a bit like us.
I think the message of our Lady of Guadalupe is that it is okay for us to blend traditions, and that we should keep trying. When people come together with love, miracles are indeed possible.