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The Virgin of Guadalupe

The Virgin of Guadalupe is an important symbol to both the national Mexican identity and to Mexico City itself. Her story is widely known across the world: Our Lady of Guadalupe, as she is commonly referred to in Mexican culture, appeared to a peasant named Juan Diego at the Tepeyac Hill (ca. 1531) and told him to gather flowers from the top of the Tepeyac and bring them to the Archbishop, who was doubtful of the apparition and demanded proof. Juan Diego did as he was instructed and gathered the flowers in his cloak to bring back to the Archbishop. Upon opening the coat full of flowers, his clothing began to bear a vivid image of the Virgin converting the flowers into her icon. To this day, Juan Diego’s cloak remains in the Basilica de Guadalupe Church in the northern part of Mexico City.

Each year thousands of pious Christians come from across the world to visit the Basílica at Tepeyac; the Calzada de Guadalupe—the road leading to the temple—overflows with processions of pilgrims taking over the street bearing gifts and bouquets to be left at the shrine where the cloak is kept.

The cultural significance of the Virgin has transcended its religious significance and is now the most renowned cultural icon in contexts as diverse as the fashion industry, Mexican-American culture and Feminist theory. The Virgin of Guadalupe represents the complex cultural mixity inherent to Mexican identity. It is no coincidence that the Basilica was built in the place that had previously been the site of an important cult devoted to Tonantzin, the mother-goddess in the Aztec tradition. The cult of the Virgin has evolved with an imagery that shapes the identity of the Mexican psyche, as reflected in the vivid colors of the city’s shrines as well as in the vibrant aesthetics of its tianguis (street markets). Many images of the Virgin—from stickers to graffiti walls, to dresses, handbags and jewelry, and even to tattoos—now decorate Mexico City and its inhabitants. The symbol of the Virgin has been constantly reconfigured and was even featured in an iconic banner during the movement for Mexican Independence.

Project name The Virgin of Guadalupe
Period Circa 1531
Contributor N/A
Location N/A