Published January 6, 2005
On Dec. 9, 1531, the Virgin appeared on a hill named Tepeyac to a Chichimec neophyte named Juan Diego, born with the name Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means “the talking eagle.”
She asked him to go to the bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The bishop did not believe Juan Diego and asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was legitimate.
On Dec. 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. There, the Blessed Mother told him to go to the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter, he found flowering roses. He gathered the flowers and took them to the Virgin, who carefully placed them in his mantle or ayate, and told him to take them to the bishop. When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and the ayate had impressed, in place of the roses, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.
Juan Diego was beatified on May 6, 1990, by Pope John Paul II and canonized on July 31, 2002. Even though Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of Mexico, she also is considered Patroness of the Americas. For many Mexicans, Dec. 12 is the most important national holiday.