Who is Virgin of Guadalupe?

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The Virgin of Guadalupe is an image of the Virgin Mary that appeared on the cloak of a Mexican farmer in 1531. Its authenticity is debated, but it is revered by many Catholics and Mexicans as a unifying symbol of Mexico. Conflicting reports exist about the image’s origin and nature, but it remains in the Basilica of Guadalupe. The image is of a young woman in a blue cloak with various symbols representing the Immaculate Conception. It has been used as a symbol of Mexican unity during times of war and revolution.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, sometimes referred to as Our Lady of Guadalupe, is an image of the Virgin Mary said to have miraculously appeared on December 12, 1531 on the cloak of a Mexican farmer named Juan Diego. While there is debate and controversy regarding the image’s authenticity as a miracle and not simply a work of art, for many Catholics and Mexicans, the image is sacred and revered as the unifying image of Mexico. The cloak on which the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe rests remains in the Basilica of Guadalupe, built on the site where the miracle is said to have occurred.

While the cloak has been extensively studied, there are conflicting reports about the nature and origin of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some researchers have stated that they are unable to identify the types of materials used to create the image, as well as seeing various other miraculous or unexplained qualities in the image. Other researchers, however, have argued that the image and the materials it is made of are decidedly terrestrial and not miraculous. These researchers found that the materials and techniques used were in accordance with what was commonly used by artists in the 16th century.

The official Catholic document of the creation of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe states that Juan Diego was walking from his home in Mexico City and was along Tepeyac Hill when he saw a girl about 15 or 16 years old. The girl spoke to him in her mother tongue and asked him to build a church there in her honor. Diego said that from her words he understood that it was an apparition of the Virgin Mary. In Catholicism and other forms of Christianity, the Virgin Mary is traditionally considered the mother of Jesus Christ.

After hearing the words of the vision, Diego went to the Spanish bishop of the time and told him what had happened. The bishop asked Diego to return to the site and request a miracle from the apparition to prove his claims to divinity. Diego came back and found Maria’s vision, then told him to pick flowers for the Bishop, even though it was winter and the flowers hadn’t blossomed. Diego did as he was told, and found roses native to the bishop’s house, but not from that region, and delivered them to the bishop. Upon returning with the flowers, Diego and the bishop were surprised to find that the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe had miraculously appeared on Diego’s mantle.

The image itself is of a young woman dressed in a blue cloak, wearing a robe underneath, her head bowed and her hands folded as if in prayer. Integrated throughout the image are various symbols believed to be both emblematic of the apocalyptic imagery used in the Bible, as well as representing the Immaculate Conception, which is the idea of ​​the conception of Jesus Christ to a virgin mother. Regardless of the nature of the image, or what precisely it may represent, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been used for centuries as a symbol of Mexican unity. The image was used by Miguel Hidalgo during the Mexican War of Independence, as well as Emiliano Zapata during the Mexican Revolution.

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