Guest Author - Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie
On December 12th, El Dia De La Virgen Guadalupe is celebrated through out Mexico and all of Latin America. The celebration and devotion of Hispanics to La Virgen Guadalupe, especially amongst the Mexican community, has spread to where the veneration and devotion to the Virgin Mary is a staple amongst all Catholics around the world, most notably in the Americas. This is the story of how the Virgen Guadalupe became the icon she is today and how El Dia De La Virgen was conceived in Mexico.
Let’s begin with the name Guadalupe and the origins of it. Guadalupe is a small village in Spain famous for it’s fortress like monastery, founded in 1340, occupied by Hieronymites from 1359 to it’s dissolution in 1832. Later Guadalupe was reoccupied by Franciscans in 1928. Guadalupe stands on a spot where it is said that a Sheppard in the early 14th century found an effigy, believed to have been rendered by St. Luke, of a black virgin. The veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe reached its pinnacle in the 15th and 16th centuries when she was made the patroness of the whole of Hispanidad, the territories conquered by Spain in the Americas, by Spanish Navigators before setting out on their voyages.
The most widely accepted, though not the first, account of the appearance of the Virgin Mary in South America is the Nican Mopohua written in Nahuatal, the indigenous language of Meso-American nations such as the Aztecan Empire. The Nican Mopohua was told by many people living in the region of Tepeyac and recorded by historians; describe the meeting between La Virgen and San Juan Diego in 1531 which was ten years since the Mexico region had been conquered by Spanish conquistadores.
Juan Diego was a widowed convert to the Roman Catholic religion and was on his way to the monastery or “to attend to divine things” passing the hill of Tepeyac when the sky turned bright and he began to hear “singing on top of the hill, like the songs of various precious birds”. He stopped wondering if it he was in “Xochitlalpan”, a Meso-American Nahuatal expression for heaven. At the end of the song he claims to have heard the call of a woman from the top of the hill where he saw a lady whose “clothes were like the sun”. He prostrated himself before her and was asked where he was going to which he replied to her home of Tlatelolco to hear the sermons of the friars. The woman went on to identify herself as “the eternally consummate virgin Saint Mary, mother of the true deity, God, the giver of life, the creator of people, the ever present, the lord of heaven and earth”. She then asked Juan Diego to relate to the Bishop her wish to have a temple built on the hill of Tepeyac where she would attend to the “weeping and sorrows” of “you and all the people of this land, and of the various peoples who love me”, “in order to remedy and heal all their various afflictions, miseries and torments.”
According to the legend, Juan Diego carried her message to the Bishop Juan de Zumarraga and upon cross examination which, would I imagine in that day, have been more of an interrogation, Juan was asked to produce evidence as to his claim. When he was unable to produce the required evidence his story was rejected. From this point on, he, being afraid of displeasing the deity, avoided the area and traversed the other side of the hill where he was reportedly again to meet with La Virgen. She instructed him to gather a bunch of Castilian Roses from atop Tepeyac hill in his tilma (cloak) and return to the Bishop. He was instructed not to put the roses down until he was in audience with the Bishop and this would provide proof of her miraculous presence. Accordingly during that time Castillian roses were uncommon in that region as well as this having taken place in the middle of winter made the abundance of roses told of in this story truly a miracle. Juan Diego did as he was told and when he delivered the roses to the Bishop the stories state that both he and the Bishop we amazed to find the image of La Virgen emblazoned on the fabric of his tilma. The virgin who appeared was given the name of La Virgen Gudalupe and shortly there after a Basilica bearing her name was built on that site in 1531.
Our Lady of Guadalupe still underpins the faith of Catholics in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, and she has been recognized as patron saint of Mexico City since 1737, with her patronage extended piece by piece until it included all of America by 1946. Much of the recent increase in Marianism in the Catholic Church, including the call to recognize Mary as co-redemptrix, stems from the cult of Guadalupe.
Today many devotees make the pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe, some crawling on their knees for miles, to pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe, make promises and seek guidance. It is said that she can cure almost any sickness and many problem drinkers go there to promise her that they will never drink again. The majority of these pilgrims claim to find the strength to fulfill their promises and find the answers that they seek.
The controversy as to the authorship and authenticity of the story as well as the mantle as well as speculation to the grafting on of a story on Catholic faith from Spain to an indigenous deity to ease assimilation of the people of the area will be covered in another article. But, for today, this is the story of how La Virgen Guadalupe became celebrated throughout Mexico and Latin America, where the true miracle is that she has united the Hispanic population as well as Catholics through out America in a common love and devotion. This was accomplished by that same stead fast love and devotion Hispanics approach every aspect of life and our traditions. It is said that 90% of Hispanics are Catholic but 100% are Guadalupanos and now maybe the same can be said of all Catholics throughout the Americas. It is the love we give to our Virgencita and that she gives to us that, as foretold in the legend, protected and kept us whole. This is the why we celebrate El Dia De La Virgen Guadalupe. Es Amor.
To find some interesting reporting from the BBC including pictures of El Dia De La Virgen Guadalupe please go this link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/in_pictures/3321581.stm