Mexico’s one of the countries with most catholic population in the world. As expected, it celebrates every single Christian festivity the gospels suggest. Nevertheless, it has its own blessed protector.
It’s said in 1531 a browned-virgin shape (more Indian looked than Jewish or European) appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, a chichimecan indian from Texcoco Kingdom (before it was conquered by the Spanish Empire). In chichimecan language Cuauhtlatoatzin means “speaker eagle”.
The virgin, then known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, asked Juan Diego to raise a shrine in the Tepeyac hill, where the appearance took place. When Diego asked the bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, to build the church, he refused by lack of evidences.
The virgin appeared by third and last time to Diego on December 12th, same year. She asked back him to return and to show the bishop his huipil (a shawl clothing used by Indians, such as a poncho). When he reached back, he spread out the huipil and, unexplainably, the virgin image got drawn on it. Ever since, she became the spiritual image of Mexican people.
Juan Diego (that after centuries became Saint Diego) set up a small shrine at the top of the hill, in which he lived the rest of his life. Years after it was called The Indians Shrine, as indian people used it to worship the virgin. Nowadays in the compound the new version of the shrine can be visited.
On top of the Tepeyac is The Hill Shrine, built in 1666 just where the virgin suppose to appeared. Is rounded by pretty plants and flowers, and from this top the northern Mexico City can be viewed by everyone.
Reach up is a long walk upon stairways. For those who really believe in this virgin, nothing is impossible, so kids and old people step up to thanks this woman.
The first church that held the title of Basilica was built in 1695 and opened its doors in 1709. First, its architecture was baroque-stylish. But the damages inside forced it to be rebuilt, and proceeded to look like neo-classical.
Now the old Basilica is tilted in the foothill. That’s because of the frequent earthquakes that shake Mexico’s Valley. City of Mexico is built on a very watery and unsteady subsoil, so the earthquakes have modified its surface trough the years. It’s funny to come into the church and feel this little dizziness.
The main, most attractive and visited building in the compound is the new Basilica of Guadalupe, that’s just next to its old sister. It was first built to host all pilgrims that reached here and, at some point, didn’t fit in the old one anymore. So, since 1974 started to host the sacred image of the virgin, which’s seen from every single point into the rounded architecture.
It worth say that the virgin frame is a copy from the original one (that suppose to printed on San Diego’s clothing). I don’t know what material they used for it, but of course it was made to protect it from the stealers.
The new temple is well-equipped for the neo-Catholics. Under the Virgin image there is a transporting electric band, so all visitors can pass beneath the frame and take all pictures they want to. Everything is really modern and well conserved.
It’s the second most visited catholic compound in the world, after the Saint Peter Basilica, in Rome. So it’s normal to find a big crowd always there. And if you go during December 12th (the virgin birthday) expect to see a huge amount of pilgrims that come from every country’s corner. More than 9 million people go on December 12th. It worth to see the festival, but think about it well (especially if you don’t like big crowds so much).
I should warm also about the sellers around the compound. You must be patient, as every 10 minutes you can face a seller in front of you asking to buy some stupid thing that, pursuant to them, is sacred and blessed (bullshit!).
At the end, no matter our spiritual preference (or non-preference), it's always wonderful to discover worldwide people’s customs and beliefs. And as Guadalupe Virgin is the most adored virgin in Latin-America, it’s bound to visit its temple.