Ciudad de Mexico y El DF: La Basilica de La Virgen de Guadalupe

Ciudad de Mexico y El Distrito Federal

6.23.05 Day Two: (Part 5) La Basilicas de La Virgen de Guadalupe y La Plaza de Las Americas

For hundreds of years, in the exact spot in Mexico City, that now houses the Plaze of the Americas and the 2 Basilicas of the Virgen of Guadalupe, there was a temple built for worship of an indeginous earth godess. In the 1500s that temple was torn down to build a Catholic church. Sometime later that Catholic church was torn down to build a church dedicated to La Virgen de Guadalupe. For those of you who don’t know who La Virgen de Guadalupe is, I will hit you with a short history.

Cortez arrived in Mexico in 1519. In 1521 Cortez defeats the Capital City of the Aztecs. 1524 12 Franciscans arrive in Mexico City. In 1525 a man named Quauhtlatoatzin, born in Cuautitlan, was baptized as an adult in a church (thought to be the church in the Plaza de Tres Culturas) and given the “Christian name” of Juan Diego. In 1531 it is said that that same Juan Diego, then 57 years old, had apparitions seeing a woman who identified herself as “La Virgen de Guadalupe” and spoke to him in Nauathul, build me a church here so I can show myself as a mother to the people and told him to relay the message to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga. It is important to note that Juan Diego was 57 because at this time the average life expectancy was about 40 years old. Juan went to the Bishop, told him what happend, and the Bishop did not believe him.

So once agian the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego and he told her that he didnt believe him. So she told him to go back and not to worry and to have faith in her and to tell the Bishop to build the church for her so she can be a mother to her people and the people can come and worship her and he did. Once agian the Bishop didn’t believe him, so then the Virgen appeard to him and said something like, whats the deal with this guy, and Juan Diego said, I dunno…he wants proof, so she said something like, here you go, and in Juan Diego’s Tilma (a cloth that Indian men wore back in the day like a Cloak) she placed a bundle of Roses for him to take to the Bishop as proof of their communication. So Juan does as instructed and as he dropped the roses at the feet of the Bishop an image of the Virgen de Guadlupe was on Juan Diego’s tilma. So the Bishop said, well okay then, and the church was said to be built.

There are some loop holes in the story though. The legend supposedly did not become known of untill a couple hundread years later when it was said to have been translated from nahuatl to Spanish by the historian Juan de Tovar who called the story the “Primitive Relation”. He claimed the original document had been destroyed.

I kind of think if an Indian man had seen la Virgen de Guadalupe the word would spread in the indian community not to mention the whole of Mexico city a few weeks after it happend, not a few centuries. There also is no proof that Juan Diego ever existed, many Juan Diegos were baptized in many Catholic churches in Mexico city, so placing him is tough. Also the tilma supposedly hangs in the Basilica, but the tilma had not been put in glass till 1647, over 100 years later. What were they doing with the Tilma during all that time? The Catholic church didn’t officially approve the tale till 1666 and it wasn’t till 1695 that the chuch, supposedly the first of many churches dedicated to La Virgen de Guadalupe all built on the same sight, started construction.

The biggest problem I have with the story is that it is a woman who claims to be La Virgen de Guadalupe, she never calimed to be the Virgin Mary or the Mother of Jesus, asks a man to build her a church in her honor. The Bible specifically says not to worship anybody or anything other then Jesus Christ and God and it says to be extremley weary of those who tell you otherwise. Throughout the bible Mary the mother of Jesus directs people to Jesus when they have questions of God and worship, sort of to say, he’s the man…axe him. There is no reason to believe that Mary would be into making herself into an Idol to be worshiped…but hey it did get millions of Mexicans to convert centuries ago.

Many people do claim that La Virgen de Guadalupe is Mary the Mother of God. I personally find this to be a stretch. But hey, thats me. If your interested or disagree with me, please research the topic. I have done minimal research, just spoke to a tour guide, heard the story told in my Mexican-American studies classes, heard the story from family members, and looked at some websites as well as talk to people in the Basilica itself, and read the supposed words of Guadalupe and Juan Diego on the walls of the Basilica itself in raised metal letters (even there she never claims to be Jesus’ mother and tells Juan to build her a church so she can be worshiped)…so do some research, and find your own truth. Further investigation is needed on my part.

So, on to pictures and cool stuff, the Basilicas are gorgeous.

The building with the gold dome roof is the old Basilica, like much of Mexico City, it is sinking into the unstable ground below it, and it acutally held together by a series a building columns held together by a series metal cables running through the building. Alot of the structural damge was done during the earthquake. The old Basilica is still used today and holds roughly about 2000 people. The old Basilica was finished 1709.

The building next to the old Basilica, with the red roof is an old convent for nuns and is still used today.

This Cross/Clock also contains a series of bells and can play alot of songs, I forgot how many but it was around 300 or something. December 12th in Mexico, is the Day of the Virgin de Gudalupe and the plaza known as “The Plaza of the Americas” gets filled with thousands of people and the bells play music and people worship the “miracle” of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

As soon as you enter the Old Basilica, you are greeted by a statue of Juan Diego, this being a more modern statue of him we see he is taller, more muscular, and more european then indeginous in the features as well as having even more facial hair now having a full goatee.

El Conversion de Los Indios. (The Conversion of the Indians.)

Primer Milagro Diciembre 1531. This painting depected the first miracle of the Virgen de Guadalupe (which if Juan Diegos cloack is supposedly true then this would actually be the second miracle). As the story goes an Indian who had to convert to Christianity got shot with an arrow that went right thru his neck. Fearing death with nowhere else to go for help since most people were in a celebration of La Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th back in the 1700s, and a priest (priests were usually the doctors in those days) pulled the arrow from his neck and it came out clean with no blood and he lived. This was a major marketing point for the conversion of many indeginous people in Mexico City at this time.

Metal Cables holding the building together.

Gorgeous Sculpture of the seal of Mexico.

More views of the old church.

Ginormous statue of Pope John Paul II next to the old Basilica.

When I see and hear of large statues next to what was thought to be a religous site with bodies barried underneath it in indeginous ruins anywhere in the world, anthropologists seemingly always assume the bodies were sacrifices to the gods. I can just hear an anthropologist in another 1,500 years from now dig up the ruins of mexico city and say, “ahh…here they had practices of worship to their God, and this statue of this pope guy and the mass graves under the church lead us to believe that hundreds of people were killed during his visit to Mexico as a sacrifce to God. Savages.”

La Nueva Basilica was built between 1974-1976 and was designed to hold many many more people, can’t remember the number, and it now houses the Tilma of Juan Diego.

Inside of the new Basilica the tilma of Santo Juan Diego is visible from any angle due to the circular architecture of the building. The architecutre is gorgeous and supposedly all the wood is fine canadian pine wood with Italian marble floors. There are three moving walkways below the tilma so people can at all times pass by the tilma and see it. The walkways are located behind the steps of the pulpit so people can view it even when a service is going on with out interrupting the service itself.

El Milagro de La Virgen de Guadalupe.

This Candle holder is supremley interesting, the reason it is bent is from the close range blast of an explosion. The explosion was an attempt was made in the Old Basilica to blow up the Tilma of Juan Diego during in 1921 and this candleholder was was bent, much of the altar was blown up, but the image of la Virdgen de Guadalupe remained intact and unharmed thus propetuating the belief of the holyness of the tilma.


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