La Virgen de Guadalupe

Today our church celebrates Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, but the forecast is calling for freezing rain so it may be postponed or canceled since the Spanish-speaking priest comes in from out of the city. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t attend the service, because it’s the one I look most forward to each year.

Raised Protestant, the Catholic relationship with the Virgin Mary was something that I had difficulty understanding at first. Protestants do not adore her the way Catholics do. I also found it confusing that there seemed to be a lot of Virgins in the Catholic faith. There is the Virgin Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin, etc. I later learned that these are not different virgins – they are all the same Virgin Mary, (mother of Jesus). Some of the names are just describing her attributes, (such as Our Lady of Peace), and others are for locations where she appeared to people.

Years ago, during the course of writing one of my manuscripts, I needed to do research on the Catholic faith. While researching, I discovered the Virgin of Guadalupe, and fell in love. There is something about the Virgin of Guadalupe that intrigues me more than I can really put into words.

Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes once said, “…one may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe.” And Nobel Literature laureate, Octavio Paz, wrote, “The Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery.”

If you don’t know the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe, allow me to share it with you.

There once was an indigenous Mexican man named Juan Diego. (His birth name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, but Juan Diego was the name he took when Spanish bishops converted him to Christianity.)

Juan Diego was a widower who walked every Saturday and Sunday to church. When it was cold out he wore a cloak-like covering called a “tilma”, a common type of clothing for the people of his tribe. On one particular Saturday morning (December 9, 1531), on his way to church, Juan Diego claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin.

As he passed the hill at Tepeyac just outside of Mexico City he heard music and saw a light. A woman’s voice called him by name from the top of the hill, so he climbed up to see. Near the top he saw a beautiful young dark skinned woman dressed like an Aztec princess. She spoke to him in his native language (Nahuatl) and told Juan that she was the Virgin Mary.

The Virgin instructed Juan Diego to seek permission for a church to be built on that site and in return she would always care for the people there. Juan Diego did as he was told but the bishop asked for a sign to verify that what Juan Diego claimed had really happened.

Juan Diego returned to the hill and told the Virgin what the bishop had said. The Virgin then directed Juan Diego to go further up the hill and there he would find roses. He was instructed to gather the roses into his tilma. Juan Diego did as the Virgin instructed. (Remember it is winter time and roses would not have been blooming.) The Virgin then told Juan Diego to bring the roses to the bishop.

Not only was the bishop surprised by the roses because they were not in season but these particular roses were also not native to Mexico. These roses were native to his homeland (Spain). And then as Juan Diego emptied the roses from his tilma, it revealed an amazing image of the Virgin.

Juan Diego’s tilma with the image still exists today. It is on display at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. This is considered yet another miracle because Juan Diego’s tilma is made from the coarse fibers of the maguey cactus. A fabric of this type should have deteriorated after 20 years. (It has been in good condition for almost 500 years and examined by many scientists who can find no explanation.)

For those who take a more cynical view, there are theories that the Catholic church made all this up just to convert the native peoples of Mexico.

Today, many of those faithful to the Virgin of Guadalupe pray to her and ask miracles. Many claim she has healed them or loved ones from incurable illnesses. Some make promises to the Virgin in return for answered prayer. On the day of celebration for the Virgin of Guadalupe, some will walk on their knees, (some for miles), to her altar in gratitude and devotion.

Our church usually assembles in the street with mariachi at sunrise to sing “Las Mañanitas” to La Virgen. After misa, there is a procession and a traditional desayuno of pozole, tamales and champurrado.

I hope we will be able to go, but here are photos from last year.

Rear windshield of a car outside the church.
A guy at church was wearing a pretty sweet jacket. He turned around and let me take his photo.
Image of La Virgencita and rosas people left for her.
Statue of La Virgen.
My youngest hijo asked if they have Cheerios. (He wasn't crazy about eating a tamal for breakfast.)


  1. It’s a wonderful story. Yo ya la conocía. Los latinoamericanos tenemos una relación muy estrecha con la Virgen María.
    Algún día te contaré la historia de la Patrona de mi ciudad: la Señora del Milagro.

  2. Tracy we have so much in common. I was raised a cristiana, de la assembly of god. My grandfather was catholic and so is my boyfriend so a little over a year ago i made the switch. I always felt guilty praying to la virgen as you know protestants, we don’t believe in praying to her. What helped me except it is the fact that she was a mother, and i feel like a mentor for women. I loved the story thanks for sharing. I also attend catholic spanish servicese every sunday but don’t tell …I am a cabrona remember :)

    • I had a lot of hang ups with the Catholic faith when I was a practicing Protestant, but a lot has changed in more than a decade. I drifted away from the Protestant church for various reasons and over the past few years I’ve been attending Spanish language Catholic mass. I did not officially convert because I can’t say honestly anymore that I am a believer in the God of organized religion in general, and I’m not going to “fake”. I can’t force myself to be something I’m not.

      That being said, I love la Virgen. I feel a connection to her. I think, like you said, because she’s a woman and a mother, she’s a mentor of sorts… I feel like she understands me.

  3. I love her! I´m not a practicing Catholic, even though I was raised as one. I clearly remember the first time my mom took us to Mexico City when I was only 5 or 6 years old, and we visited el Monte de Tepeyac, or La Villa. I was completely impressed and the image is still so present in my mind. I lived five years in Mexico City and went to visit her as often as I could.
    Actually, now I have a tradition, or superstition, of visiting her every time I go to D.F. I took my daughter when she was only 9 months, and we´re going back in 2 weeks to visit La Virgencita.
    Thanks for dedicating this to her!

  4. Very interesting! I didn’t know they were all the same Mary. Obviously, I’m not Catholic, although I always wanted to be. I think I just wanted to make that cross sign with my hand whenever something bad happened. My suegra does it whenever we pass a church in La Paz.

    I hope you got to go to your service!

    • LOL! Susan, I love your honesty. When I was about 11 years old, my best friend was Catholic. I spent a lot of time with her and her mother, going shopping at the mall and such. Whenever we’d drive by a car accident, they would cross themselves. I was totally fascinated. Of course I wanted to do this, too. I remember doing it in front of my Mom and she looked at me strangely before telling me, (not unkindly), “We don’t do that.” lol

      My husband also does it every time we pull out of the driveway.

  5. The Virgen de Guadalupe is totally mi virgen (and yes, there are many, many, too MANY). This is the Catholic celebration I look forward to the most, probably because it resonates with me as a woman and Latina. Well, we also take our dogs to get blessed in October for St. Francis’ day. Never a dull moment watching the birds eyeing the cats eyeing the dogs eyeing the police horses as they wait to get holy water thrown on them!

  6. Through history we know that one of the main goals for the Spanish empire was to expand their church throughout their colonies in Latin America. The Spanish though were struggling converting the natives, who already had religious beliefs and traditions of their own, into catholism. The Spanish means of convertion by using force, threats, and torture (hello, inquisition) was actually backfiring at them, for the natives’ actua response was that of despiteful rejection against the god of the Spanish and numerous rebellious attacks. However through Cuauhtlatoatzin’s (named Juan Diego after his convertion to Catholism) apparition of the Virgen Mary, the Spanish goal suddenly began to turn very easy to achieve. The natives were proud that the virgen appeared before one of their own people and slowly they began to accept the catholic churh, which was always managed by the Spanish at the time. Therefore the Catholic church was able to help the state maintain their power and dominance throughout Latin America with much less rejection. Nowadays we still see the same or similar pheonmenom happen in remote areas of Latin America; every time an apparition takes place, more and more locals gather up and start a new group of believers. Soon they begin building a church with help sent from the Vatican. Ultimately this helps the Catholic church grow even more powerful and influential.

  7. G. Hamilton…. You got it right (Through history) Hernand Cortez coming over to take over Mexico brought his own own little image of “Our virgen of Guadalupe” that he would carry with him in his ship for worship. This little statue of a lady (islamic) was found in the banks of the Guadalupe river in Spain ( thats where the name comes from) and they took it as a divine saignal. Cortez and the catholic church second goal was to convert the Nahuatls in Mexico to catholisism, as you mentioned, even with the horrible inquisition acts of torture and murder they struggled and their plan didnt really work. The Cathilics came up with the fabricated story of Juan Diego over a hundred years later than when it supposed to had happened even hiring an Artis painter (Makus something) to paint the first fake image of La Virgen. Insidently, The Hill of Tepeyac was the Aztecs place of worship and after them, their descendants, the Nahuatls. So it was a perfect “hook” for the virgen to apear in the Tepeyac and to a Nahutl, what a coincidence!… It worked!

    I hope some readers learned something.

  8. Is to bad the teaching of this woman of Guadalupe is false she answers no prayer makes no miracles only Jesus Christ does that god son god in flesh . It is written John 14:6 read your bibles no other way not by Mary no by saints not Allah not by Buddha or Muhammad only by Christ

    • If that is your belief, that’s fine Kevyn, but I respect everyone’s belief and I don’t think it’s for any individual to tell another their beliefs are wrong when it comes to something so personal. It is between that person and God, whoever/whatever they believe God to be.

      • We’ll I have to evangelize and tell the truth is not jut my believe is should be yours as we’ll it is written in the bible that Jesus is the only way no other. And lupe isn’t god she is sinner as we’ll, she needed salvation as we’ll. noting is more sweeter than the truth again I will but this verse again tell you there is only one beliefs that should be follower if you want salvation John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

      • The problem is that “evangelizing” by telling people “you’re wrong” is not going to convince anyone – You’ll only make them angry. Too many Christians think they need to be pushy about evangelizing, but this only pushes people AWAY from the church. It’s better to live a good life in accordance with your beliefs and serve as a living example, then when/if people ask the secret to why you’re so happy and at peace, you can share your beliefs.

        Have you ever heard the saying “You attract more flies with honey than vinegar”? … This is what I’m trying to say.

        Best wishes.

      • I understand what your saying but Jesus was straight forward to the scribes and Pharisees that they need salvation he didn’t put “sugar” on top with respect. And also living a good life simply won’t bring you to salvation it isn’t jut enough to live a good life it good of coarse but it isn’t enough only accepting Jesus and him alone will bring you and me an anyone else to father. Hey by the way I use to be catholic but only by tradition and I guess I was only looking here because my mom is still catholic. Jesus was good tree and and a good tree will never produce bad fruit and a bad tree will never produce good fruit. Simply my friend

      • Again, you can believe and do as you wish, but I’ve only told you the truth – That you won’t “win souls” in this way. It’s this type of evangelizing that pushes people away. If you really truly care about the people and what you believe will become of their eternal destiny, then you should consider re-thinking your approach rather than justifying it.

        Since this isn’t a religious message board, I’m going to declare this the end of the conversation. You have your beliefs and I have mine. Live and let live, hermano.

        Best wishes.

  9. I am A full catholic. BY the name of Guadalupe.named after mymother and I were not not assured that one of us would live ,while mom was giving me birth.. so here I am 59 years later .thank you .MI VIRJEN DE GUADALUPE. as this is how I inherited this beautiful name. dios los vendiga!

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