"She appeared on a hill on December 9, 1531. She spoke to Juan Diego in his native tongue of Nahuatl; the language of the Aztecas. She asked for a church to be built at that very site in honor of her, the Virgin Mary. Juan Diego took the request to the local priest, but his story was not believed. On December 12, following further instructions from La Virgen, Juan Diego was able to find and pick roses not native to Mexico. He rolled them up in his tilma and returned to the priest. When he unrolled his tilmato present the roses, there on the tilma was the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe; she was as dark as the natives themselves.
Natives across Mexico and throughout the Americas endured the brutal realities of conquest, and experienced the relegation to second class citizens during the colonial period in Mexico. In particular, native women experienced oppression two-fold. This is evident in the fact that native men had privileges and opportunities within the public sphere of society which were denied to women, such as holding particular types of public service positions.
So how is it that millions of natives across the continent converted to Catholicism, the religion used by their oppressors to justify the horrors and atrocities inflicted upon them? The appearance of La Virgen to Juan Diego. She is seen as the blending of the Indigenous and European cultures. A Huffington Post article, Everything You Need to Know About La Virgen de Guadalupe, explains, “Her image has been used throughout Mexican history, not only as a religious icon but also as a sign of patriotism.” Indeed, she has appeared as a symbol even in the most pivotal of moments, such as the fight for Mexican independence and the Mexican Revolution. The authors of the studyThe Evolving Genre of ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’: A Feminist Analysis, also note that she has become “. . .the ideal model for womanhood and motherhood.”
However, the view of this extraordinarily important female figure within the patriarchal Catholic faith changed and evolved over the centuries, particularly among Chicana female Catholic feminists. La Virgen de Guadalupe has been reclaimed by Chicana Catholic feminists. Much like the Aztecs in 1531, Chicana feminists have their own version of the Virgin Mary. Utilizing the power of art, Chicana and Chicano feminists are portraying La Virgen de Guadalupe in ways in which contemporary women can relate to, thus, creating a personal experience for women within their Catholic faith while challenging the patriarchal traditions within it."
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