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Our Lady of Guadalupe from Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico

Today, December 12th, is the day that Our Lade of Guadalupe is celebrated. Also known as the Queen of Mexico this is the holiest of days and she is celebrated as the Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary.

According to tradition a simple indigenous peasant, Juan Diego, saw a vision of a young woman December 9th, 1531, while he was on a hill in Tepeyac near Mexico City. He told the local bishop who asked for some proof. Three days later, according to legend the image of Mary appeared miraculously on his cloak as he was showing it to the bishop.

Today the cloak is displayed in the Basilica de Guadalupe nearby which is one of the most visited shrines in the world.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is Mexico’s most popular religious and cultural image and also holds the titles Empress of the Americas and Patroness of the Americas. Both Miguel Hidalgo (in the Mexican War of Independence) and Emiliano Zapata (during the Mexican Revolution) carried flags bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Guadalupe Victoria, the first president of Mexico, changed his name in honor of the icon.

Two accounts published in the 1640’s published in Spanish and Nahuatl, tell how during his walk from his home village to Mexico City early in the morning of December 9th, 1531 (Feast of the Immaculate Inception in the Spanish Empire) the peasant, Juan Diego saw a vision of a young girl 15 or 16 years of age surrounded by light on the slope of the Hill of Tepeyac. Speaking in the local language of Nahuatl the Lady asked for a church to be built at that site in her honor and from her words Juan Diego recognized her as the Virgin Mary.

Diego told his story to the Spanish bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarrago, who asked the peasant to return to the Lady and ask for some miraculous sign to prove her claim.

The Virigin told Diego to gather some flowers from the top of the Hill of Tepayac. It was winter and no flowers bloomed but Diego found flowers of every sort, and the Virgin herself arranged them in his tilma or peasant cloak. When Diego opened the door in front of Zumarrago on December 12th the flowers fell to the floor, and in their place was the Virgin of Guadalupe miraculously imprinted on the fabric.

The church was built right beside where Our Lady was seen by Juan Diego and the portrait of her image on his tilma hangs in that church to this day.

Skeptical scientists have not been able to disprove the theory as, clearly, they cannot prove that the image was painted on the tilma and did not arrive there as reported by Juan Diego.

There are six million people over the course of every year and who visit the site on the 11th and 12th of December.