Numerous written versions of the Guadalupe narrative are multiplied by translations and innumerable spoken renderings. The story's details were modified for Old or New World audiences, and new versions of the story appear in diverse media even now. No single text is accepted to the exclusion of others. True, false, or somewhere between, the story lives.
The present text is translated from an account published in Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) by Luis Lasso de la Vega in 1649. That version was based on an account by the Indian scholar Antonio Valeriano from the original Nican Mopohua, or Huei Tlamahuitzoltica, no longer extant.
The website Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas (28 Oct. 2008) provides this unattributed English translation, adapted with gratitude. The present version is provided as a teaching text only and does not pretend to scholarly authority.
Aside from annotations, the only changes are minor edits for spelling and clarity. No meanings are substantially altered. Bolded highlights and bracketed comments are by instructor. Passages in red (original to the source above) are speech attributed to the Virgin Mary, a printing technique called rubric. (Comparably, in some printings of the New Testament Gospels, the words of Jesus are printed in rubric or red.)
Names and terms marked with an asterisk (*) are indexed at the bottom of this webpage.
Risks & resolutions of reading a vital religious text in a public institutions:
Believers may be sensitive to literary-cultural treatment of sacred texts and symbols.
Secularists may resist any vital religious text in a public institution as violating separation of church and state and promoting irrational thought as well as social division.
Members of other religious traditions may demand equal time and attention.
These objections won't go away, but literary and cultural studies treat the Virgin of Guadalupe text neutrally as a story or narrative. (Objective 6b: literary devices such as narrative and figures of speech.)
Purposes of this text for Early American Literature & American Minority Literature:
The Lady of Guadalupe may be read as Mexico's "creation or origin story" because it fuses European-Catholic and Indian-traditional elements much as the mestizo identity mixes European and Indian genealogies. (Ser Guadalupano es algo Esencial)
These complementary modern and traditional identities may match Minority Literature's Objectives on Mexican Americans as "The Ambivalent Minority."
Examples of modern & traditional identities mixed:
Juan Diego is torn between fulfilling mission to Virgin Mary and Bishop and his duty to his sick uncle.
Many scholars doubt the authenticity of this story, but it enjoys great popularity among everyday believers.
For religious and cultural studies, the Guadalupe story may exemplify syncretism, the blending of distinct religious symbols, practices, or traditions into a new spiritual identity or tradition, and, correspondingly, the Mestizo identity of both European and Indian genes and cultures.
Examples of syncretism and Mestizo identity in Guadalupe story:
Appearance of Virgin of Guadalupe in painting combines qualities of European Madonnas with Meso-American Indian features.
Juan Diego's visions occur at the hill called Tepeyac (near present-day Mexico City), where the Aztecs previously had a temple dedicated to Tonantzin, a mother goddess associated with Mother Earth.
Juan Diego is a Spanish name, but he is identified as "a poor Indian." Even though the story occurs only 10 years after the arrival of the Spanish, Juan Diego (an Indian) is depicted as already a convert to Christianity with a Spanish name. "Juan" = "John," as in John the Baptist or the Disciple John; "Diego" is the Spanish version of Hebrew Ya'aqhob or Jacob]
Para. 3: "elders" may refer to church elders or tribal ancestors?
para. 28 "roses of Castile" are gathered in Juan Diego's Indian cloak or tilma.
But also notice conflicts between European court of Bishop and a poor Indian like Juan Diego. They don't trust each other!
Other points of interest:
The Virgin of Guadalupe is an essential cultural symbol for Mexican America. As a symbol, Guadalupe can signify diverse meanings to diverse audiences: family and maternity to conservatives, national pride and resistance to leftists.
Historical currency: In 2002 in Mexico City, Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin as a saint of the Catholic Church: article.
1. How familiar are you already with the image or story of the Virgin of Guadalupe? What meanings are associated with this symbol?
2. How does the story of the Virgin exemplify syncretism? How may syncretism be compared to the mestizo or Hispanic / Latin@ identity?
The Story of the Virgin of Guadalupe
[some terms annotated, others indexed by * at end of story]
[red or rubric text is a scriptural tradition indicating sacred speech by divine figure, here the Holy Virgin]
 Ten years after the seizure of the city of Mexico [the conquest by Cortes], war came to an end and there was peace amongst the people; in this manner faith started to bud, the understanding of the true God, for whom we live. At that time, in the year fifteen hundred and thirty one , in the early days of the month of December, it happened that there lived a poor Indian, named Juan Diego, said being a native of Cuautitlan [near modern Mexico City]. Of all things spiritually he belonged to Tlatilolco. [pre-Colombian Aztec city/state in valley of Mexico]
 On a Saturday just before dawn, he [Juan Diego] was on his way to pursue divine worship* and to engage in his own errands. As he reached the base of the hill known as Tepeyac**, came the break of day, and he heard singing atop the hill, resembling singing of varied beautiful birds.
[*Even though the story occurs only 10 years after the arrival of the Spanish, Juan Diego (an Indian) is depicted as already a convert to Christianity with a Spanish name. "Juan" = "John," as in John the Baptist or the Disciple John; "Diego" is the Spanish version of Hebrew Ya'aqhob or Jacob]
[**Tepeyac = hill north of Mexico City,
traditional sacred site associated with Aztec fertility goddess Tonantzin; now
site of the Basilica of Guadalupe]
 She said: “Juanito, the most humble of my sons, where are you going?” He replied: “My Lady, I have to reach your church in Mexico, Tlatilolco*, to pursue things divine, taught and given to us by our priests, delegates of Our Lord.” [*Tlatilolco = pre-Colombian Aztec city/state in valley of Mexico]
 She then spoke to him: “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my sons, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.
 "I wish that a temple be erected here* quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. ["here" = the Hill of Tepeyac near present-day Mexico City, where a temple to the fertility goddess Tonantzin had stood.]
 "And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”
 At this point he bowed before her and said: “My Lady, I am going to comply with your mandate; now I must part from you, I, your humble servant.” Then he descended to go to comply with the errand, and went by the avenue which runs directly into Mexico City.
 Having entered the city, and without delay, he went straight to the bishop’s palace, who was the recently arrived prelate* named Father Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan religious. On arrival, he endeavored to see him; he pleaded with the servants to announce him; and after a long wait, he was called and advised that the bishop had ordered his admission. [*prelate = bishop or other high-ranking cleric]
 As he entered, he bowed, and on bended knees before him, he then delivered the message from the lady from heaven; he also told him all he had admired, seen, and heard. After having heard him speak his vision and message, it appeared incredible. Then he told him: “You will return, my son, and I will hear you at my pleasure. I will review it from the beginning and will give thought to the wishes and desires for which you have come.” He [Juan Diego] left and he seemed sad, because his message had not been realized in any of its forms.
 He returned on the same day. He came directly to the top of the hill, met the Lady from heaven, who was awaiting him, in the same spot where he saw her the first time.
 Seeing her, he prostrated before her and said: “Lady, I went where you sent me to comply with your command. With difficulty I entered the prelate’s study. I saw him and expressed your message, just as you instructed me. He received me benevolently and listened attentively, but when he replied, it appeared that he did not believe me. He said: 'You will return; I will hear you at my pleasure. I will review from the beginning the wish and desire which you have brought.'
 "I perfectly
understood by the manner he replied that he believes it to be an invention of
mine that you wish that a temple be built here to you, and that it is not your
order; for which I exceedingly beg, Lady and my Child, that you
delivery of your message to someone of importance, well known, respected, and
esteemed, so that they may believe in him; because I am a nobody, I am a small
rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf, and you, my Lady,
you send me to a place where I never visit nor repose. Please
excuse the great unpleasantness and let not fretfulness befall, my Lady and my
 Juan Diego replied: “Lady, let me not cause you affliction. Gladly and willingly I will go to comply your mandate. Under no condition will I fail to do it, for not even the way is distressing. I will go to do your wish, but perhaps I will not be heard with liking, or if I am heard I might not be believed. Tomorrow afternoon, at sunset, I will come to bring you the result of your message with the prelate’s reply. I now take leave, my Lady. Rest in the meantime.” He then left to rest in his home.
 The next day, Sunday, before dawn, he left home on his way to Tlatilolco*, to be instructed in things divine, and to be present for roll call, following which he had to see the prelate. Nearly at ten, and swiftly, after hearing Mass and being counted and the crowd had dispersed, he went. On the hour Juan Diego left for the palace of the bishop. Hardly had he arrived, he eagerly tried to see him. [*Tlatilolco = pre-Colombian Aztec city/state in valley of Mexico]
 Again with much difficulty he [Juan] was able to see him [Bishop]. He kneeled before his feet. He saddened and cried as he expounded the mandate of the Lady from heaven, which God grant he would believe his message, and the wish of the Immaculate Virgin, to erect her temple where she willed it to be. The bishop, to assure himself, asked many things, where he had seen her and how she looked; and Juan described everything perfectly to the bishop.
 Notwithstanding his precise explanation of her appearance and all he had seen and admired, which in itself reflected her as being the ever-virgin Holy Mother of the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, nevertheless the bishop did not give credence and said that he could not do what Juan had asked based only on his request. In addition, a sign was necessary, so that he could be believed that he was sent by the true Lady from heaven. In reply, Juan Diego said to the bishop: “My lord, what must be the sign you request? I will go to ask the Lady from heaven who sent me here.”
 The bishop, seeing that Juan ratified everything without doubt and was not retracting anything, dismissed Juan Diego. Immediately the bishop ordered some persons of his household, whom he could trust, to go and watch where Juan Diego went and whom he saw and to whom he spoke. So it was done. Juan Diego went straight to the avenue.
Those who followed him, as they crossed the ravine, near the bridge to Tepeyac*, lost sight of him. They searched everywhere, but he could
not be seen. Thus they returned, not only because they were disgusted, but also
because they were hindered in their intent, causing them anger. And that is what
they informed the bishop, influencing him not to believe Juan Diego; they told
him that he was being deceived; that Juan Diego was only forging what he was
saying, or that he was simply dreaming what he said and asked. They finally
schemed that if he ever returned, they would
hold and punish him harshly, so
that he would never lie or deceive again. [*Tepeyac = hill north of Mexico City,
traditional sacred site associated with Aztec fertility goddess Tonantzin; now
site of the Basilica of Guadalupe]
 In the meantime, Juan Diego was with the Blessed Virgin, relating the answer he was bringing from his lordship, the bishop. The lady, having heard, told him: “Well and good, my dear. Return here tomorrow, so you may take to the bishop the sign he has requested. With this he will believe you, and in this regard he will not doubt you nor will he be suspicious of you; and know, my dear, that I will reward your solicitude and effort and fatigue spent on my behalf. Lo! go now. I will await you here tomorrow.”
 On the following day, Monday, when Juan Diego was to carry a sign so he could be believed, he failed to return, because, when he reached his home, his uncle, named Juan Bernardino, had become sick, and was gravely ill. First he summoned a doctor who aided him; but it was too late, he was gravely ill. By nightfall, his uncle requested that by break of day he go to Tlatilolco and summon a priest, to prepare him [for death] and hear his confession, because he was certain it was time for him to die, and that he would not arise or get well.
 On Tuesday, before dawn, Juan Diego came from his home to Tlatilolco to summon a priest; and as he approached the road which joins the slope to Tepeyacac hilltop, toward the west, where he was accustomed to cross, said: “If I proceed forward, the Lady is bound to see me, and I may be detained, so I may take the sign to the prelate, as prearranged; that our first affliction must let us go hurriedly to call a priest, as my poor uncle certainly awaits him.” Then he rounded the hill, going around, so he could not be seen by her who sees well everywhere. He saw her descend from the top of the hill and was looking toward where they previously met.
 She approached him at the side of the hill and said to him: “What’s there, my son? Where are you going?” Was he grieved, or ashamed, or scared? He bowed before her. He saluted, saying: “Lady, God grant you are content. How are you this morning? Is your health good, Lady? I am going to cause you grief. Know that a servant of yours is very sick, my uncle. He has contracted the plague, and is near death. I am hurrying to your house in Mexico to call one of your priests, beloved by our Lord, to hear his confession and absolve him, because, since we were born, we came to guard the work of our death. But if I go, I shall return here soon, so I may go to deliver your message. Lady and my Child, forgive me, be patient with me for the time being. I will not deceive you. Tomorrow I will come in all haste.”
[Instructor's comment: This episode may mark
an aspect of Minority Literature Objective 5c on Mexican Americans as "ambivalent minority":
Juan Diego is torn between his unexpected mission as a messenger for a divine
figure and his traditional duty to his family.]
 When Juan Diego heard these words from the Lady from heaven, he was greatly consoled. He was happy. He begged to be excused to be off to see the bishop, to take him the sign or proof, so that he might be believed. The Lady from heaven ordered to climb to the top of the hill, where they previously met. She told him: “Climb, my son the least, to the top of the hill; there where you saw me and I gave you orders, you will find different flowers. Cut them, gather them, assemble them, then come and bring them before my presence.”
 Immediately Juan Diego climbed the hill, and as he reached the summit, he was amazed that so many varieties of exquisite rosas de Castilla* were blooming, long before the time when they are to bud, because, being out of season, they would freeze. They were very fragrant and covered with dewdrops of the night, which resembled precious pearls. Immediately he started cutting them. He gathered them all and placed them in his tilma**. The hilltop was no place for any kind of flowers to grow, because it had many crags, thistles, thorns, nopales and mezquites. Occasionally weeds would grow, but it was then the month of December, in which all vegetation is destroyed by freezing.
 He [Juan Diego] immediately went down the hill and brought the different roses which he had cut to the Lady from heaven, who, as she saw them, took them with her hand and again placed them back in the tilma**, saying: “My son, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my wish and that he will have to comply to it. You are my ambassador, most worthy of all confidence. Rigorously I command you that only before the presence of the bishop will you unfold your mantle and disclose what you are carrying. You will relate all and well; you will tell that I ordered you to climb to the hilltop, to go and cut flowers; and all that you saw and admired, so you can induce the prelate to give his support, with the aim that a temple be built and erected as I have asked.”
 After the Lady from heaven had given her advice, he was on his way by the avenue that goes directly to Mexico; being happy and assured of success, carrying with great care what he bore in his tilma, being careful; that nothing would slip from his hands, and enjoying the fragrance of the variety of the beautiful flowers.
 When he reached the bishop’s palace, there came to meet
him the majordomo* and other servants of the prelate. He begged them to tell the
bishop that he wished to see him, but none were willing, pretending not to hear
him, probably because it was too early, or because they already knew him as
being of the troublesome type, because he was pestering them; and, moreover, they
had been advised by their co-workers that they had lost sight of him, when they
had followed him. [*majordomo = chief household
 Upon seeing that all the different rosas de Castilla, and out of season, the courtiers were thoroughly amazed, also because the flowers were so fresh and in full bloom, so fragrant and so beautiful. Three times they dared to seize and pull some out, but they were not successful. They were not lucky because when then tried to get them, they were unable to see real flowers. Instead, they appeared painted or stamped or sewn on the cloth. Then they went to tell the bishop what they had seen and that the Indian who had come so many times wished to see him, and that he had reason enough so long anxiously eager to see him.
 Upon hearing this, the bishop realized that Juan Diego was carrying the proof, to confirm what the Indian requested. Immediately he ordered Juan Diego's admission. As he entered, Juan Diego knelt before him, as he was accustomed to do, and again related what he had seen and admired, also the message.
 Juan Diego said: “Sir, I did what you ordered, to go forth and tell my Ama*, the
Lady from heaven, Holy Mary, precious Mother of God, that you asked for a sign
so that you might believe me that you should build a temple where she asked it
to be erected; also, I told her that I had given you my word that I would bring
some sign and proof, which you requested, of her wish. She condescended to your
request and graciously granted a sign and proof to complement
her wish. Early today she again sent me to see you; I asked for the sign so you
might believe me, as she had said that she would give it, and she complied. She
sent me to the top of the hill, where I was accustomed to see her, and to cut a
variety of rosas de Castilla. After I had cut them, I brought them, she took
them with her hand and placed them in my cloth, so that I bring them to you and
deliver them to you in person. Even though I knew that the hilltop was no place
where flowers would grow, because there are many crags, thistles, thorns,
nopales and mezquites, I still had my doubts. As I approached the top of the
hill, I saw that I was in paradise, where there was a great variety of exquisite rosas de Castilla, in brilliant dew, which I immediately cut. She had told me
that I should bring them to you, and so I do it, so that you may see in them the
sign which you asked of me and comply with her wish; also, to make clear the
veracity of my word and my message. Behold. Receive them.”
[*Ama = mother, mistress]
 When the bishop saw the image, he and all who were present fell to their knees. Mary was greatly admired. They arose to see her; they shuddered and, with sorrow, they demonstrated that they contemplated her with their hearts and minds. The bishop, with sorrowful tears, prayed and begged forgiveness for not having attended her wish and request. When he rose to his feet, he untied from Juan Diego’s neck the cloth on which appeared the Image of the Lady from heaven. Then he took it to be placed in his chapel. Juan Diego remained one more day in the bishop’s house, at his request.
 The following day he told him: "Well! show us where the Lady from heaven wished her temple be erected.” Immediately, he invited all those present to go.
 As Juan Diego pointed out the spot where the lady from heaven wanted her temple built, he begged to be excused. He wished to go home to see his uncle Juan Bernardino, who was gravely ill when he left him to go to Tlatilolco to summon a priest, to hear his confession and absolve him. The Lady from heaven had told him that he had been cured. But they did not let him go alone, and accompanied him to his home.
[Instructor's comment: Another episode of
Minority Literature Objective 5c on Mexican Americans as "the ambivalent minority": Juan Diego is
torn between his unexpected mission as a public messenger and his traditional
duty to his family.]
 The bishop transferred the sacred Image of the lovely lady from heaven to the main church, taking her from his private chapel where it was, so that the people would see and admire her blessed Image. The entire city was aroused; they came to see and admire the devout Image, and to pray. They marveled at the fact that she appeared as she did and for her divine miracle, because no living person of this world had painted her precious Image.
Attribution of original text:
for more details: http://wapedia.mobi/en/Huei_tlamahui%C3%A7oltica#1
Images and photos associated with Guadalupe
"Her sacred face is very beautiful, grave, and somewhat dark . . . ." The image of Guadalupe is a statement of Mestizo identity, in which Indian and European bloodlines and features are blended.
Popular / Devotional Art depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe
Basilica of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill north of Mexico City
Virgin of Guadalupe in Popular Culture / Art
Mexican National Identity
Simplest equation: symbol = image + meaning
image = something that communicates to the senses; most often sight—image aspect of a symbol is part of nature
meaning . . .
a symbol suggests or provokes meaning(s), often powerfully but not absolutely and exclusively (though some readers of the symbol may feel absolute or exclusive about meaning)
standard examples: . . .