The Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian converted to Christianity, in December of 1531. She proclaimed to be the mother of God. Juan Diego first beheld the Madonna on Tepeyac Hill; right outside of what is now know as Mexico City. She appeared to him with dark skin and Indian-like facial features. As the legend goes, after several attempts by Juan Diego, at the Virgen's instruction, to persuade the local bishop to have a temple built on the Tepeyac site, she told Juan Diego to gather the flowers (roses) growing on the hill and to bundle them up in his tilma, cloak. She told him to give these to the bishop as a sign and proof of her existence. When Juan Diego did as the Virgen had asked of him, he opened his tilma and there appeared the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe.To this day, the tilma is displayed in the basilica in Mexico City. The proof of the miracle remains steady as the tilma, despite its age, has not shown signs of deterioration and the image of the Virgen is just as crystal clear as the day Juan Diego presented the Virgen's roses to the bishop.
December 12th is the Virgen de Guadalupe’s feast day. Mariachis will play at her mass and matachines will dance in the courtyard. This a most glorious festival for Catholics and especially Hispanic Catholics in Mexico and all along the Southwestern Border.
After four and a half centuries, Juan Diego has now been canonized as a Saint in his own right.
There are so many depictions of the Virgen de Guadalupe; I don't even know where to begin. The picture you see to the left is a plaque that once belonged to my mother. I bought it for her to replace the copy she had taken out of an old magazine and had framed in a dime store metal frame. That memory will stay with me for a long time. Once my mother started taping a small string of lights around the image of the Virgen, we knew the Christmas Holiday season was near. The Virgen's image is found everywhere, murals, clothing, expensive paintings, on motorcycles, on the clothing worn by Matachines (Mexican Indian dancers), on book covers, you name it. MexGrocer has posters of the Virgen for sale online, click here to get to the site.
There is also a novena that can be recited and offered to our beautiful Lady of Guadalupe, click here.
Legend of Juan Diego
Juan Diego, born in 1474, was an Aztec tribesman who had converted to Christianity. He was a meek and humble man; married to Maria Lucia, who had also been baptized in the Christian faith. Juan Diego was known to be a deeply devoted and religious man. He walked 14 miles from his village of Cuauhtitlan to Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) to receive instruction on religious doctrine.
In 1529, Maria Lucia died and Juan Diego moved to Tolpetlac, which was 9 miles closer to Tenochtitlan.
Every weekend he walked, barefooted, the 9 miles to hear mass. (Only the higher social classes wore sandals.) To keep warm on the long chilly walks to church, he wore a mantle, tilma, made with the fibers of the maguey cactus. (Only upper Aztec classes used Cotton.)
One day during his long trek to the church as he approached the foot of Tepeyac Hill, he heard music and a voice calling to him, "Juanito, Juan Diegito, the most humblest of my sons...". Juan Diego, startled, but drawn to the voice, went up the rocky hill. As he looked up, he found himself face to face with a beautiful Lady. Her garments shone brightly with the early morning rays of the sun. She looked to be young. She beckoned him and as he approached, he fell to his knees in veneration.
She asked him where he was going and he told her he was on his way to mass. She smiled and told him that She was the Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God. She asked him to tell the Bishop that it was her desire that a temple be built at the very spot where she stood.
Juan Diego immediately went to the city and relayed the message to the Bishop. The Bishop listened politely and soon dismissed him. Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill and told the Virgin. She once again very kindly instructed him to return and tell the Bishop of her wishes. When Juan Diego once again returned to the Bishop, the Bishop told Juan Diego that he would need a sign from Heaven for his story to be more convincing.
When Juan Diego returned to the Lady and explained to her what the Bishop wanted, She smiled tenderly at him. On the morning of December 12, she asked him to go gather flowers growing at the top of the hill. She told him to take them to the Bishop as the sign that the Bishop had requested.
When Juan Diego returned to the Bishop, he opened the tilma to uncover the flowers that the Virgin had told him to deliver to the Bishop. For the longest moment, everyone's eyes were on Juan Diego and his tilma. As the flowers dropped from his mantle, a replica had appeared on the cactus cloth, an exact replica of the Virgin herself as she had first appeared to Juan Diego at Mount Tepeyac.
The tilma, despite its age of over four hundred years, still exists and is at the Old Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.