By Ricardo Flores Angel, Newhall Community Contributor
Mexican Catholics and other Latinos celebrate Saint Juan Diego on the 9th of December followed on the 12th of December with the larger celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The two are a big part of Mesoamerican Catholicism, a mixture of European and Native American culture.
The story began on December 9, 1531. On that day the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill, a hill in what is now Mexico City. The Virgin said she was the Lady of Tepeyac, the Spanish name for Tepeyac is Guadalupe, and that she wanted Juan to tell the Bishop in Mexico City to build her a church on that site. Juan did as he was told. But Bishop Zumarraga, did not believe him at first and asked for a sign that Juan had indeed heard the Virgin Mary. He asked him to bring flowers like those found only in Castile. There was a delay because Juan’s uncle became critically ill and Juan tried to find a Doctor to heal him. Two days passed by as Juan cared for his uncle.
This time Our Lady of Guadalupe came down from the hill and asked him why he had not done as she had requested. Juan explained his preoccupation with his uncle. She told him not to worry, his uncle was healed and to do as she asked. Juan then gathered the flowers she gave him and took them to the Bishop in his tilma, a rough cloak, this occurred on the 12th of December.
The Bishop saw the flowers, then fell to his knees in prayer. There imprinted on Juan’s tilma was the portrait of the Virgin de Guadalupe. The Vatican was also skeptical at first but after a thorough investigation, they declared Juan Diego’s encounter a miracle in 1745. The 12th of December was declared a Liturgical Holy Day in 1999. Juan Diego was declared a saint in 2002.
The investigation by the Vatican is recorded in the Nican Mopohua, a 16th Century document written in the Nahuatl language, the native language of the Aztecs. Tepeyac hill was the site of a Temple for the Aztec goddess Tonantzin which the Spaniards destroyed during their Conquest. She called Juan Cuahtlatoatzin, a name given to a Tlatelolco prince. The Lady called herself the Goddess of Tepeyac, the Mother Goddess of all the Gods.