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a.k.a. "Our Lady of Guadalupe," "La Virgen Indigena," "La Reina de Mexico" An image of the Virgin Mary which, according to Chuch dogma, miraculously appeared on the cloak of Juan Diego, one of the first indigenous Catholic converts in the area, December 21, 1531. She asked him to build a temple to her on a hill called Tepeyac. As proof of her existence, she made flowers grow in the winter and her image appeared on Diego's cloak.1

The building of the church at Tepeyac and the installation of the image there couldn't have been better planned from the Church's point of view: Thousands of indigenous people suddenly converted. Tepeyac, it turns out, had been the site of a temple to one of their goddesses, whose symbols were all over the Virgin's image. Many consider this another case of the Church's canonizing an indigenous deity in order to win converts.

In the image, Mary appears pregnant, standing on bull horns which are being held by an angel. She wears a blue shawl covered in stars. According to legend, the stars in the shawl show the stars that were in the sky on December 12, 1531, the winter solstice. (There is a great diagram of this at http://spin.com.mx/~msalazar/7-e.html) Also, ultra-high resolution photograhs of the virgin's eyes show the reflected image of an Indian man (another miracle!).

Today, the image (which has been miraculously preserved for 400 years) is in the Basilica in Mexico City. The Basilica is amazingly ugly. Seeing the image is cool, though: You have to go by on a conveyor belt so that no one stands there and gawks for too long and keeps other people from seeing it. Also, in the courtyard of the Basilica, there is a huge clockwork diorama which tells the story of the miraculous appearance of the image every hour.

Today you'll also see the image of the virgin everywhere in Mexico, on t-shirts, jewelery, mini-statues in people's yards, etc. Which I don't have a problem with. The problem I have is that the virgin appeared as Indigenous. The legend clearly states that she had brown skin and looked native, and in the original image her skin looks dark. But in all the reproductions she's suddenly white. Bah.

The word "Guadalupe" doesn't come from the town of Guadalupe in Spain. Scholars think it comes instead from the Nahuatl word "Tequatlaxupe", which means "the one who crushes the stone serpent" or better, from the word "Tlecuauhtlapcupeuh", which means "the one who comes from the region of light, like the fire eagle". It is supposed that the terms were transformed by the Spaniards because they were not able to understand the sounds and to pronounce the native language correctly.

From http://spin.com.mx/~msalazar/1-e.html, the official homepage of the Virgin of Guadalupe. You can even email petitions to the holy virgin there. It's cool.

On the December 9th, 10 years after the conquer of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, a native called Juan Diego was walking across a hill called Tepeyac. He was going to Tlatelolco to attend the catechism. Juan Diego was listening to the beautiful singing of the birds, when the Mother of God appeared. She wanted a temple to be built in that place and she instructed Juan Diego to go and tell the Fist Bishop of the Region. The Bishop and his assistants did not believe the story told by the native.

He returned to the Tepeyac with the idea of giving up the task. However, the Virgin appeared again and repeated the assignment to Juan Diego, in spite of his humble protest. The native obeyed Her and went to see the Bishop again but he was not successful either. Nevertheless, he was so insistent that the Bishop told him to ask the Holy Lady to prove Her presence with some kind of evidence. Then, the Bishop ordered his servants to follow Juan Diego so as to corroborate the native's story. When Juan Diego arrived at the Tepeyac he inexplicably disappeared and the Spaniards lost sight of him. The Virgin talked to Juan Diego again and told him to come back the following day to give him the proof for Zumarraga.

The native lived with his uncle Bernardino who was very ill at the time. For that reason, on December 12, at dawn, Juan Diego preferred to go and look for a priest who could give spiritual comfort to his uncle. Although he tried to avoid the Lady, She found him and gave him a message of faith and hope. She ratified Her Heavenly Origin and confirmed Her petition of a temple which would symbolize a message of peace and help to the whole world. Then, She asked him to go up the hill and told him that she would give him the proof Zumarraga had asked for. On the top of the hill, Juan Diego suprisingly found flowers, in spite of the winter frost. He picked them up and put them inside his cloak. After the Virgin had touched the flowers, he went to the Bishop's house to give him the flowers. Once in the Bishop's house, the precious image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was revealed, impressed on the tough cloth. Simultaneously, the Virgin appeared to uncle Bernardino, in the same figure which appeared on Juan Diego's cloak. She cured Bernardino immediately. She told him that She was Guadalupe, the Perfect One, the forever Virgin, Mother of the True God, because of Whom we all live.

Nowadays, the original image, complete, intact, with no addings, is in the Tepeyac Shrine, where millions of pilgrims from the whole world visit Her to pray and beg favors from our Heavenly Father. Her message confers Her the power of being the first and most important evangelist in the New World.

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