Juan Diego, Bl.
JUAN DIEGO, BL.
According to tradition, the name of the Native Mexican to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Tepeyac, a hill outside of Mexico City, on Dec. 9, l53l. According to this same tradition, Juan Diego's given name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, and he was born around 1474 in Cuautitlán, about 20 kilometers north of Tenochtitlán (Mexico City). He was married but had no children. When he and his wife were baptized in l524, he took the name Juan Diego, and his wife the name María Lucía. The earliest written account (l649) of the apparitions, the Nican Mopohua, calls him a macehualli (poor Indian). In 1666 when a formal ecclesiastical inquiry was made into the apparitions, Juan Diego was described as being devout and religious even before his conversion. After this, he was said to have walked weekly to Tenochtitlán to attend Mass and receive catechetical instruction. When his wife died in l529, he went to live with his uncle, Juan Bernardino. Juan Diego was 57 at the time of the apparitions and from then on he lived in a small room attached to the chapel that housed the image of our lady of guadalupe, as its custodian. He is said to have received special permission from the bishop to receive communion three times a week. He died on May 30, 1548 at 78 years of age.
Juan Diego was recognized as blessed by means of an equivalent beatification on May 6, l990, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the presence of Pope John Paul II with the reading of a decree from the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints. It recognized that public devotion to Juan Diego was a long tradition, approved an obligatory memorial for the archdiocese of Mexico City and an optional memorial for other dioceses. The decree set December 9, the date of the first apparition, as the day for the memorial.
Although there are written accounts from the 16th century that mention both the shrine and devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the first written mention of Juan Diego is in the above cited Nican Mopohua. This so called silencio guadalupano of over a century has led some, including the abbot of the Basilica of Guadalupe, Msgr. Guillermo Shulemberg Prado, and the Vincentian historian Stafford Poole, to question the historicity of Juan Diego. This view caused a certain amount of controversy in 1996 and led to the resignation of the abbot. In 2000, Asunción Garcia Samper of the Center of Guadalupe Studies published a book proving the historicity of Bl. Juan Diego, as a nobleman. This information will be used during Juan Diego's now-advanced cause for canonization.
Feast: Dec. 9.
Bibliography: v. elizondo, Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation (Maryknoll, NY 1997). r. nebel, Santa María Tonantzin Virgen de Guadalupe: Continuidad y transformación religiosa en México. tr. c. w. bustillos (Mexico City l995). Center of Guadalupe Studies, El Mensajero de la Virgen (Mexico City 2000). s. poole, Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, l53l–l797 (Tucson l995). The Story of Guadalupe: Luis Laso de la Vega's Huei tlamahuicoltica of l649, ed. and tr. l. sousa, s. poole, and j. lockhart (Stanford l998).
[j. a. rubio]