Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as La Virgen de Guadalupe in Spanish, is the world’s most venerated apparition of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Our Lady of Guadalupe would not be venerated the world over but for the Fall of Tenochtitlan and the Spanish colonization of mesoamerica. Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared to Saint Juan Diego, and Indigenous Mexican named Cuauhtlatoatzin at birth. Juan Diego is described by sources as both an “Aztec prince,” and a “Chichimec peasant.” He is believed to have lived in Cuautitlán, 19 miles north of Tenochtitlan, in what is today the greater Mexico City urban area. According to the Nican mopohua, published in the Indigenous Aztec language of Nahuatl in 1649, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego four times in December 1531, ten years after the Fall of Tenochtitlan.

Western and Indigenous scholars have pointed to the similarities between Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Aztec Earth mother goddess Tonantzin. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on Tepeyac Hill, the site where Tonantzin was venerated by the Aztec. When she appeared to Juan Diego she spoke to him in Nahuatl. The proof of her apparition was an image emblazoned upon Juan Diego’s tilmàtli (tilma), his traditional Indigenous cloak, where she was depicted as brown-skinned, with a black ribbon around her waist indicating she was encinta (pregnant). To this day, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only Marian apparition depicted as pregnant. As an Earth Mother goddess, Tonantzin was almost always depicted as pregnant in Aztec pottery and art. The Aztec would have associated Our Lady of Guadalupe’s blue and green cloak with divinity and royalty.

On the connection between the Aztec goddess Tonantzin and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dr. Alan R. Sandstrom, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, writes that “in the minds of many people living within and outside of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe and the ancient Tonantzin are one and the same. This sacred figure can be seen to represent the emergence of Mexico as a unified nation born out of the destructive encounter between European and pre-Hispanic civilizations.”

For some, La Virgen de Guadalupe was a tool used by the Spanish and the Catholic Church to further their project of religious conversion, colonization and genocide. For others, Tonantzin Guadalupe was a symbol of Indigenous resistance and continuity of Indigenous beliefs in the face of brutal colonization. In 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla would lead the struggle for Mexican independence from Spain under a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the 1910s, Emiliano Zapata and his revolutionary army would fight for Indigenous land rights under a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the 1960s and 1970s, the United Farm Workers would march for fair pay and the rights of migrant farm workers under her banner. Our Lady of Guadalupe plays a central role in Mexican nationalism and Mexican identity, it should come as no surprise then that Chicago’s first Mexican parish carries her name, and that Mexico’s brown-skinned goddess is venerated throughout Chicagoland’s Mexican-American communities.

Additional Information

24. 1140 W. 18th Street Mural

25. 1214 W. 18th Street Mural

Virgen de Guadalupe mural painted in 1966 by an unknown artist on the Chapel of our Lady of Lourdes at Saint Procopius Catholic Church in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

26. 1333 W. 18th Street Mural

27. 1656 W. Cermak Road Mural

28. 1702 W. 18th Place Mural

29. Increíbles Las Cosas Q’ Se Ven Mural (1854 S. Ashland Avenue Mural - visible from 19th Street)

30. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (3200 E. 91st Street, Chicago, IL 60617)

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is located in Chicago’s far Southeast Side and was the first Mexican parish established in the city in the mid-1920s. 

Additional Information: Chicago's First Mexican Church, WTTW, September 2017

31. Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (1170 North River Road, Des Plaines, IL 60016)

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