Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548), who is the first native American Saint. The official site of Vatican gives us the following account of him:
On 9 December 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. 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, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true. On 12 December, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses flowering. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as “proof”. When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.
With the Bishop’s permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.
This is well known; less well known is that this Saint and our Lady of Guadalupe are symbols of the national independence of Mexico, quite contrary to every cliché that the Church suppressed the people in Latin American. As we can read in the following report (from: Mexconnect):
Beginning to understand the intense relationship between Mexicans and La Virgen is to begin to understand the people of this great and confusing nation of contrasts
In ten years of oppression by the Spaniards, the Indians had been worn down, their spirit was broken, but relatively few had been baptized as Christians. Even those who had been converted to Catholicism missed the closeness of worshipping their own gods. They were separated from the Gods that belonged to them, that looked like them. They felt orphaned by their gods, and then adopted into a religion where they didn’t feel they belonged. When the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe appeared, brown skinned, and speaking a local language, they again had an object of worship that was their very own. She was a shield of the weak, help of the oppressed, the mother of orphans.
The appearance of Guadalupe on Tepeyac, the site of the destroyed Aztec temple of Tonantzin, the Mother Earth Goddess, restored the dignity and the spirit of the people. Her arrival is said to mark the birth of a new land and a new people, neither European nor prehispanic, but both, the first product of the New World. Even her physical appearance announced the newness of this world, for her face looked neither like the Spanish nor the Indian. Her lovely features are the pleasant mixture of both – she is a Mestizo, the first Mexican.
Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldua writes, “She is like my race – a synthesis of the old world and the new, of the religion and culture of the two races in our psyche, the conquerors and the conquered.”
There is a video of an Emmy-winning filmmaker’s story of “3 days Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego”. Miracles occured while filming this movie. A cloud appeared and settled on the hillside they were filming on, just like in the original story. Birds appeared and sang when the script called for it. Contrails formed cloudlike rays of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The filmmaker has been to 250 cities telling audiences about what happened. Every time he filmed, something miraculous happened in front of the camera or behind the camera. The first day they filmed was the worst rainstorm in 100 years, yet not a drop of water fell on them as they filmed. Other things happened in the full length film not talked about here.