In 1524, soon after the first Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico, Juan Diego accepted the Catholic faith and was baptized.
Chavez recounted that “on Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to Tlatelolco to attend catechism when the Mother of God appeared to him. She asked him to be her messenger.”
She asked Juan Diego to go to Bishop Zumárraga and ask for a little temple to be built in dedication to her in the valley of Tepyac. Zumárraga received Juan Diego, but asked for a sign from the Virgin Mary to prove her message.
Juan Diego, whose uncle had been sick, tried to avoid their next meeting, but the Blessed Mother still appeared to him. Msgr. Chavez said, “The Virgin asked him to go to the top of the hill, where he would find beautiful flowers to cut and put in his tilma (cloak). Just as she said, Juan Diego found on that dry and rocky hilltop, a place of death, the most beautiful and extraordinary flowers.”
He filled his tilma and brought the roses to the bishop as was requested. When he approached the bishop, he opened his tilma to reveal the beautiful image of the Virgin Mother as a “mestiza” (a woman of mixed race), wrapped in the sun with the moon at her feet, her robe studded with stars. “Her message and will is the spreading of the love of God and that is why she asked for a temple, to offer His love to persons of every lineage who trust in Her.”
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She told Juan Diego that her name was “Santa Maria de Guadalupe.” Chavez explained that “Guadalupe” is a name of Arabic origin that means “the river bed,” “the one that carries the water;” it can also be translated as “river of light.” She takes us to the living water.)
Finally, Msgr. Chavez argued that Juan Diego’s humble tilma had four essential meanings to the Indians: First, the tilma was used as cover for protection against inclement weather. It was also used to carry things, thus contributed to the support of the family.
Thirdly, within the Indian society, the tilma was an indication of the status and social condition of a person. Only noblemen could have their garments decorated. And lastly, the tilma was so important that during Indian weddings the man’s tilma was tied into a knot with the huipil, the woman’s dress, as a symbol that their lives were united.