The Historical Virgin of Guadalupe: The Local Origins of a Universal Devotion

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Latin American History


The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, a humble indigenous man, in 1531, just ten years after the Spaniards had conquered Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. After convincing a reluctant Spanish bishop of the apparition, Juan Diego built a shrine at Tepeyac, the site of her appearance. Soon, the conquered Indians of Mexico traveled from near and far to venerate the dark-skinned virgin who had graced one of their own with her miraculous presence. Guadalupe's fame grew and devotion to her blossomed, so much so that she became an icon of Mexican identity and the pope named her patroness of the Americas in 1757. Or so the pious tradition goes. What do the historical accounts reveal about the originas of the cult of Guadalupe? Something much different.

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