Who Is Juan Diego? Facts About Indigenous Saint Who First Saw Virgen De Guadalupe

Virgin of Guadalupe
Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe is a popular Catholic feast that celebrates the belief that a man encountered the Virgin Mary, Mexico’s patron saint. Reuters

According to official Catholic accounts, on the morning of December 9, 1531, Juan Diego, an Indigenous man born in 1474 in Cuautitlan, Mexico, saw an apparition of a maiden at the Hill of Tepeyac. The area where the apparition was seen would become the town of Villa de Guadalupe in the suburbs of Mexico City.

The conversation that took place between Diego and the maiden was believed to have been said in his native Nahautl tongue. She instructed him to build a church at the site where they stood, in her honor. Reportedly, Juan Diego recognized the maiden as the Virgin Mary.

It is believed that he was granted four separate apparitions of the Virgin during the month of December on the hill of Tepeyac, where the current Basilica de Guadalupe stands. These apparitions known as "el acontecimiento Guadalupano" are the basis of the cult of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Every December 12 of the year, which has been declared the Virgin’s celebration, the religious community, specifically in Mexico, gathers and travel to the country’s principal religious center at the Basilica of the Virgen of Guadalupe. Once there, the devoted will celebrate the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe with a mass ceremony and a traditional fair in her honor. The Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe became an national holiday in Mexico in 1859.

Due to his role and devotion to the Virgin Mary, Juan Diego was the first indigenous Roman Catholic saint. He was officially canonized in 2002, however, the process towards his sainthood began in 1974 which marked 400 years since his birth.

In January of 1984, the Archbishop of Mexico, Cardinal Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, initiated the inquiry into Juan Diego's beatification. Following a historical inquiry by the Vatican, he was officially beatified in 1990. After a lengthy process to authenticate Diego's miracles, he was finally canonized by Pope John Paul II on February 26, 2002.

Juan Diego's cloak is housed in the Basilica de Guadalupe: the cloak or mantle is said to have been imprinted with an image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, proof of the authenticity of the apparitions, making the Basilica the world's major center of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics, receiving over 20 million visitors in 2016, the vast bulk of whom were pilgrims traveling to pay homage to the Virgen and the saint who first saw her.

In addition to the reported apparitions seen by Juan Diego, the now saint also has miracles associated with him. Juan Diego's miracle occurred at the beginning of May, 1990 in Querétaro, Mexico. Juan José Barragán Silva was a young man who suffered heavily from a drug addiction. The man made the fateful decision to take his own life and jumped from his apartment building falling 32 feet to the ground.

In the wake of the devastating fall, Barragán’s mother, Esperanza called upon Juan Diego to save her son from his own suicide attempt. Despite sustaining severe injuries to his neck and spinal column, Barragán suddenly emerged from a coma completely and inexplicably recovered on May 6, 1990.

 

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Maria G. Valdez

Maria was born and raised in Dominican Republic, where she began her career in journalism covering human interest stories, entertainment, beauty and wellness for a national magazine. She moved to New York City to study Musical Theatre, but went back to journalism after graduating in an attempt of becoming the Latina Carrie Bradshaw. She has an unhealthy obsession with JLo and claims to be Sofia Vergara’s long-lost daughter, and has tried a crazy amount of treatments to keep looking young. She became a Zumba instructor for fun.