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Our Lady of Guadalupe and the First Indigenous American Saint

Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe Research Topic

Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe Research Topic screencap via Proquest eLibrary

As Catholic tradition has it, on December 9, 1531 the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to Indian peasant Juan Diego on a hill near Mexico City. She asked that a church be built on the hill in her honor to bring comfort to the people. Upon hearing the story, a skeptical Spanish archbishop told Juan Diego to ask Mary for a sign of her presence. Mary pointed him toward roses growing in a place where only cacti were normally found, and when Juan Diego returned with the flowers gathered in his cloak, Mary arranged them and told him return to the archbishop. When Juan Diego dumped the flowers to the floor before the archbishop, it was discovered that they had left an image of Mary on his cloak.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City houses what is purported to be the actual fabric and image (known as the tilma) described in the story above. The tilma is visited by millions of pilgrims every year, and the image is the most popular religious image in Mexico. The popularity of the story and the relic have persisted despite skepticism, including questions about whether Juan Diego even existed, and in 2002 Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego as the first indigenous American saint. Juan Diego’s feast day is December 9 and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12. Previously having been a largely Latin American tradition, observation of the Guadalupe holiday is spreading north to the U.S. and elsewhere.

Whether Juan Diego’s tilma is the result of a miracle or a fabrication, its influence has been large, spurring millions of conversions to Catholicism and helping shape Mexican identity.

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Research Topics:

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Roman Catholicism, Virgin Mary

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Religion, Christianity