La Virgen de Guadalupe: A Symbol of Colonization Or A National Symbol of Pride?


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Guadalupe is part of our culture now, a meme that is much bigger than the historical events. Guadalupe is a source of pride and of strength for the downtrodden, used everywhere from Miguel Hidalgo to Cesar Chavez to the current day.
Just as with most things religious, the facts and evidence are hidden away in a distant time. No cellphone cameras to capture new apparitions or the original Book of Mormon on golden tablets, the Ten Commandments on stone tablets, no burning bushes with God speaking from it, nor satellite images to view Jesus’ ascension into the heavens and breaking through our upper atmosphere or passing through the Van Allen radiation belt.
More than a religious relic, La Virgen de Guadalupe is now a firmly engrained cultural symbol for millions. Catholics adore her as the Mother of Jesus while Native Americans may view the image as that of Tonantzin. Some may simply find beauty in the art, as an important symbol that transcends any coherent understanding of how the image came to be.

Symbol or reality?

In 1990, Pope John Paul II beatified Juan Diego, the first step before his eventual canonization as Saint Juan Diego a decade later. The actions also coincided with the pope’s visits to Mexico and it was hugely popular. The basilica housing the image of Guadalupe is the second most visited Catholic site in the world, second only to St. Peter’s basilica in Vatican City.
The abbot of the famous basilica in Mexico City for many years was Rev. Guillermo Schulenburg. He, and many scholars and priests wrote a letter to the pope urging him not to canonize Juan Diego as a saint because he more than likely did not exist but existed mostly as a symbol.

A vocal minority of priests and church historians, including the former head priest of the Basilica of Guadalupe, has opened an emotional national debate here by publicly stating what some scholars have long believed: that there is no convincing historical record that Juan Diego ever existed.
They say he was probably fabricated by Spanish conquerors as a means of converting the country’s native tribes to Catholicism.
“It’s a story, like Cinderella was a story,” said the Rev. Manuel Olimon Nolasco, one of seven men who signed four letters sent to the Vatican recently, asking John Paul to reconsider the decision to grant sainthood.
Olimon and the others argue that adding Juan Diego’s name to the church’s hallowed roster of saints might make millions of Catholics feel good, but that his candidacy does not meet the church’s rigorous standard of documentation for those it canonizes.
Olimon, a church history specialist who teaches at the Pontifical University of Mexico, which trains priests, said he went to Rome in October to make his case to top church officials. But he believes the Vatican has already….

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