Guadalupe, Virgin of

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Guadalupe, Virgin of

Virgin of Guadalupe, preeminent devotion of Mexico, also popular throughout Latin America. The Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a Nahua peasant, in December 1531, at Tepeyac, a hill north of Mexico City. The Virgin commanded the building of a church on the site. When the bishop-elect of Mexico, Juan de Zumárraga, asked for a sign, she directed Juan Diego to gather roses from the top of the hill and take them in his mantle (tilma) to the bishop-elect. When Juan Diego opened the mantle before Zumárraga, the Virgin's image was imprinted on it. It is popularly believed to be the same image venerated today at the basilica of Guadalupe.

The historical substratum for the apparition account is weak. Although a chapel of ease (ermita), without a resident priest, existed at Tepeyac under the name Guadalupe as early as 1556, there is no incontrovertible evidence of the apparitions before 1648, when the story was first popularized by Miguel Sánchez. He made only the vaguest references to his sources. In 1649 Luis Lasso de la Vega published a Nahuatl account, now usually called the Nican mopohua. This is frequently accepted as the authentic account, in part because its authorship has been attributed to the noted native scholar Antonio Valeriano. This attribution is demonstrably mistaken. Most likely the story was a cult legend dating from the early seventeenth century, perhaps an offshoot of the story of the Virgin of Remedios, that was embellished and popularized by Sánchez. Other than the name, the Mexican Guadalupe has no connection with the Guadalupe of Estremadura. Similarly, the existence of a pre-Hispanic native devotion at Tepeyac is questionable, and there was no conscious substitution of the Virgin of Guadalupe for a native deity.

In addition to its religious significance, the image and cult of Guadalupe have had a profound social, cultural, and political impact on Mexico. In the period from 1648 until 1736, the devotion was confined to the criollos of New Spain, who viewed it as a sign of special divine favor. After the success attributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe in stopping an epidemic in 1736–1737, the cult spread to other parts of the Spanish Empire and was granted a proper feast by the papacy (1754). It also grew in popularity among the Indians, partly as the result of a deliberate evangelization by the church. Eventually, it became the only devotion that transcended regional boundaries and racial differences. Guadalupe has been viewed as a symbol of liberation (as in its use by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and Emiliano Zapata) and of submission (as by some preachers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries). It was also closely entwined with criollo consciousness in the colonial period and Mexican nationalism in the independence period. "Mexico was born at Tepeyac" is how it is often phrased. The Virgin of Guadalupe was proclaimed patroness of all Latin America in 1910 and of the Philippines in 1935. In 1945 Pope Pius XII called her the Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Colonial Period; O'Gorman, Edmundo.


Miguel Sánchez, Imagen de la Virgen Maria, Madre de Dios de Guadalupe (1648).

Jacques Lafaye, Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe: The Formation of Mexican National Consciousness 1531–1813, translated by Benjamin Keen (1976).

Primo Feliciano Valázquez, La aparición de Santa María de Guadalupe (1931, 1981).

Ernesto De La Torre Villar and Ramiro Navarro De Anda, eds., Testimonios históricos guadalupanos (1982).

Ernest J. Burrus, S.J., The Basic Bibliography of the Guadalupan Apparitions (1531–1723) (1983).

William B. Taylor, "The Virgin of Guadalupe: An Inquiry into the Social History of Marian Devotion," American Ethnologist 14 (1987): 9-33.

Stafford Poole, C.M., Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, 1531–1797 (1994).

Additional Bibliography

Brading, David A. Mexican Phoenix: Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition Across Five Centuries. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Sousa, Lisa, Stafford Poole, and James Lockhart, eds. The Story of Guadalupe: Luis Laso de la Vega's Huei tlamahuiçoltica of 1649. Stanford: Stanford University Press; Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 1998.

Poole, Stafford. The Guadalupan Controversies in Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Zarebska, Carla, and Alejandro Gómez de Tuddo. Guadalupe. Oaxaca: J. Dalevuelta, 2002.

                                  Stafford Poole, C.M.