History of the Informaciones
Credibility of the Testimony
Witnesses of Cuautitlán
Significance of the Indian Testimony
Although we have shown there is a substantial written tradition of the Guadalupe narrative dating back to the sixteenth century, this evidence is not the primary basis of belief in the legitimacy of the apparition story. The official ecclesiastical inquiry of 1666, which ultimately resulted in Rome's sanction of the Guadalupan cult as worthy of belief and meriting its own feast day, relied mainly on the solemn testimonies of 21 witnesses who attested that the traditional Guadalupan narrative was well known among many people for many years before P. Sánchez published his history. Some of these witnesses were chosen on account of being old enough to have known contemporaries or near-contemporaries of Juan Diego in their youth. Others were chosen because of their good reputation, or because their station granted them access to official accounts or testimonies from persons of importance. The synthesis of these testimonies yielded the conclusion that Guadalupan tradition was known among many Spaniards and Indians in Mexico all the way back to the time of the events in question. Accordingly, the tradition was sufficiently credible to merit official Church sanction of this Marian cult.
It may seem naïve, or at least strange, to try to establish the facts of a particular event based on the testimony of people living 135 years after the event occurred. We must keep in mind, however, that the purpose of the ecclesiastical inquiry was not to establish the apparition and miracles of Guadalupe as historically certain facts, but only to prove that there was a continuous tradition about these events that was widespread and credible enough to be worthy of a sanctioned cult. By themselves, these testimonies cannot establish the historicity of the Guadalupe narrative, but they can provide further context for the written tradition we have already discovered. The testimonies of the Informaciones, then, contain historical evidence, but of a sort that must be approached with care and caution, since we are dealing with people who are witnesses not to the events themselves, but to how other people in their lifetime related these events in speech or in writing.
In 1663, Francisco de Siles, who was the canónigo lectoral (theologian for the cabildo) of the archdiocese of Mexico, asked the Bishop of Puebla, Diego Osorio de Escobar y Llamas, who then governed the archbishopric which was sede vacante, to petition Pope Alexander VII to grant a separate feast day of December 12 for Our Lady of Guadalupe. At that time, the Guadalupan festival was still celebrated on December 8, the Immaculate Conception. The bishop, who would also serve as interim viceroy for three months in 1664, agreed to the suggestion. Osorio (as governor of the archdiocese and as interim viceroy) and the ecclesiastical cabildo sent letters of petition to the Pope and to the Congregation of Rites, accompanied by documents pertaining to the Guadalupan apparitions.
This request did not come out of nowhere, as many clerics before Siles had long pondered submitting such a petition. Even before the published apparition narratives of Sánchez and others, the profound Mexican devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe had long been heard of in Spain, and even in Rome. Recognizing this devotion, Pope Gregory XIII gave a plenary indulgence in 1573 to pilgrims visiting the shrine of Guadalupe. This act did not constitute a recognition of the apparitions or the miraculous origin of the image, however.
In the seventeenth century, the Church adopted stricter standards regarding devotions to holy men and images that were not canonically recognized. In 1625, Pope Urban VIII issued a letter prohibiting liturgical devotions to non-canonized persons, and in 1634 he reserved beatifications to the Holy See, eliminating any legitimate outlet for giving homage to those "beatified" by popular acclaim. Accordingly, the cult of Juan Diego was officially suppressed in Mexico, though there remained a broad popular devotion to the seer of Guadalupe. The published Guadalupan narratives escaped censure by mentioning only those miracles attributed to the Blessed Virgin herself, but many Indians believed that Juan Diego's intercession could also work miracles, as we will learn from the Informaciones.
The response from Rome requested that the petitioners prepare a questionnaire for examining indirect witnesses of the miracle and its circumstances, and to draw up requirements for selecting deputies, who in the name of His Holiness would gather all of the information. Once this was accomplished, the formal petition process would be initiated.
In order to save time, P. Siles recommended that the archdiocese should not only draw up the questionnaire and select judges, but that they should actually carry out the juridical inquiry and send the results to Rome. That way the formal petition process could begin as soon as the documents were received, rather than have another back and forth round of communication.
The ecclesiastical cabildo agreed to this proposition in December 1665, and appointed judges for the proceedings. There were three classes of witnesses who gave depositions in these Informaciones. First, there were seven painting experts who examined the Image and testified that it was not made by any technique of their profession. Second, there were three scientists (protomédicos) who studied the environment at Tepeyac and testified that the Image's state of preservation was miraculous. Third, there were twenty-one witnesses who testified to the oral tradition of Guadalupe they had learned from their forebears, establishing that the cult of the miraculous image was worthy of belief. It is this last category of testimony alone that we will examine.
The Informaciones Jurídicas were conducted in 1666, and the final documents were translated into Latin and sent to Rome, along with a letter from the permanent viceroy, Antonio Sebastián de Toledo Molino y Salazar, Marqués de Mancera (ruled 1664-1673). As with the 1663 petition, the archbishopric was again sede vacante at this time, since the recently named permanent archbishop Juan Alonso de Cuevas y Dávalos died on September 5, 1665, scarcely a year after taking office in June 1664.
Once the petition reached Rome, it was not the death of an archbishop, but that of the Pope, which would send the Informaciones into limbo. With the death of Pope Alexander in May 1667, the Congregation of Rites could not approve such a petition until a new pontiff was elected. Alexander's successor, Clement IX was opposed to authorizing any new devotions. He died only two years later (December 1669), after which the Congregation postponed existing petitions indefinitely. On the Mexican side, Francisco de Siles died in 1670, and no one immediately after him sought to pursue the Roman process.
There is no record of the Congregation of Rites ever reviewing the 1666 petition, though the documents certainly reached Rome. This is proven by a 1681 publication by Mons. Anastasio Nicoselli that discussed the Informaciones and translated a summary of its findings (including those of the painters and scientists) from Latin into Italian.
It was only in 1699 that the Congregation of Rites ended its policy opposing the "canonization" of holy images, by granting a feast to Our Lady of Loreto. Previously, Rome's stance had been that images of the Blessed Virgin, however exalted their origin, should be honored on the traditional Marian feasts, since these Images are but representations of the Virgin Mary. Throughout the seventeenth century, however, several miraculous images had acquired increasingly broad devotion and exalted status in Christian kingdoms, so demands for a distinct feast day seemed more compelling.
In 1721, P. Joseph de Lizardi y Valle, Treasurer of the Sanctuary of Guadalupe, having found some of the testimonies of 1666 in the archepiscopal archive, asked Archbishop D. José de Lanciego y Eguilaz to conduct new Informaciones to submit to Rome. Unable to locate the original documents from the 1666 submission, Lizardi copied the questionnaire used by Siles to conduct the investigation anew. He obtained testimony from only two witnesses in 1723, and tried to organize new scientific examinations of the Image, but the process went slowly, until it was suspended altogether by the death of the archbishop in 1728. No progress was made under the new prelate, Juan Antonio de Vizarrón y Eguiarreta (in office 1730-1747). During that period, Lizardi met many bureaucratic obstacles, and as time went on, the original commissioners died and their successors did nothing.
Despite this failure of the bureaucratic process, Lizardi did succeed in getting a team of painting experts headed by Miguel Cabrera to examine the Image. Their report was critical in securing the interest of the Spanish court and the Holy See in the Guadalupe miracle. In 1753, the Jesuit Juan Francisco Lopez was appointed to present the Guadalupan cause in Madrid and Rome, where he already represented the Mexican province of the Jesuits. He brought copies of the Image made by Cabrera to King Ferdinand VI and Pope Benedict XIV, as well as numerous copies of Becerra Tanco's Felicidad de México. In the Roman archives, he was unable to find any documents from the 1666 Informaciones, except for copies of Becerra Tanco's paper. It was at this time that he discovered Nicoselli's 1681 Guadalupan history referring to the 1666 testimonies, proving that they had reached Rome. Also around this time, Lizardi was able to find a 1737 copy of the Informaciones in Mexico, but not the originals.
After reviewing the evidence presented by P. Lopez, the Congregation of Rites granted the December 12 feast day (double of the first class with an octave), with a special Mass and Office, to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In his bull Non est equidem (May 25, 1754), Pope Benedict XIV named the Virgin of Guadalupe as patroness of New Spain (which then reached from Arizona to Costa Rica). This was an unprecedented level of recognition for a holy image; not even the translation feast of Loreto received its own Office. The Pope was greatly impressed with the evidence shown to him by P. Lopez, and upon seeing Cabrera's replica of the Image, he exclaimed, Non fecit taliter omni nationi ("He hath not done this for any other nation").
Pope Benedict personally composed the prayer of the Office, which contained no explicit reference to the apparition narrative. Indeed, if Fray José Servando Teresa de Mier's secondhand account is to be believed, José Patricio Fernández de Uribe y Casajero (1742-1796) was told by Lopez himself that the Pope denied his request to allow mention of the apparition in the prayer of the Office, saying, "I have already done too much for the Mexicans." (José Servando Teresa de Mier Noriega y Guerra, Cartas del doctor fray Servando Teresa de Mier al cronista... p. 105) This restraint is not inconsistent with the Pope's admiration for the Guadalupan prodigy, for it was not proper to include private revelation in the Church's official liturgy. In 1757, at the behest of King Ferdinand VI, Pope Benedict named the Virgin of Guadalupe as patroness of all Spanish dominions.
It was not until 1889 that the testimonies of the Informaciones were published in full, by the Mexican scholar Fortino Hipólito Vera, who followed the 1737 copy discovered by P. Lizardi. By comparison with excerpts from the original Informaciones cited by P. Florencia in his Guadalupan treatise, it can be determined that the 1737 copy was paginated differently than the original, but otherwise the content is the same. It is this copy that has been used as the basis for all modern editions of the Informaciones, until in 2001, Eduardo Chávez Sánchez discovered an original notarial and official transcript dated April 14, 1666. Thanks to this discovery, there can no longer be any doubt that the received text of the Informaciones is an accurate reproduction of the original documents.
The Informaciones Júridicas were a formal legal proceeding, with duly appointed ecclesiastical judges. The witnesses giving depositions were bound to the same solemnities - and subject to similar penalties for perjury - as in any other procedure of an ecclesiastical court. If anything, the procedure assumed a special gravity since the judges were acting on behalf of the Holy See, so the authority of the proceedings was more akin to that of an inquisitional court.
Willful perjury was unlikely, not only on account of the severe penalties involved and the seriousness of the proceedings, but also because the witnesses were selected specifically because of their excellent moral reputation or experience in a position of public trust. Moreover, there was no personal gain to be had from giving false testimony, since this was not an ordinary proceeding involving accusing someone of an offense. It is possible that some of the witnesses sought to ingratiate themselves with the judges by giving testimony that seemed especially favorable to the Guadalupan cause. We should be wary, then, of testimony that simply repeats in the affirmative what was presented to them by the interrogators.
We may discern three levels of quality in the testimonies of 1666. The lowest grade would be those responses that simply affirm those facts of the Guadalupan narrative presented in the questionnaire. A higher grade of evidence may be found in additional details volunteered by the witnesses, which are not contained in the questionnaire nor in the published narratives of 1648 and 1649. The best evidence of all would be such additional details that are independently corroborated by multiple witnesses. We will be mindful of these distinctions in quality as we examine the testimonies of 1666 in some detail.
The witnesses of 1666 were asked nine questions by D. Francisco de Siles. These are reproduced below (page numbers cited are from Fortino Hipólito Vera's 1889 edition).
1a Primeramente sean preguntados por el conocimiento de dicho Sr. Dr. D. Francisco de Siles, Dignidad en que se halla, puestos que obtiene, y las noticias, tradicion, que tuvieren así proximas, como remotas de dicha Aparicion.
2a--Item si saben, así de vista, de oidas, ó cierta ciencia como á los doce del mes de Diciembre del año pasado de mil quinientos y treinta y uno siendo Prelado de este Arzobispado el Ilmo. y Rmo. Sr. D. Fr. Juan de Zumarraga de buena memoria llegó á su casa, y Palacio Arzobispal Juan Diego Indio natural, y vecino que en aquella ocasion era del Pueblo de Quautitlan, y hizo avisar á su S. Ilma., que queria hablarle de parte de la Señora, de quien antes le habia traido otros recados; y habiendo entrado á su presencia dixo, que la Señora le habia mandado dixese á su Ilma., que para diese credito á dichos recados, tomase aquellas flores, que traía envueltas en la Tilma, que tenía puesta, y al descogerlas, queriendolas reconocer, halló y vido dicho Sr. Arzobispo estampada la Imagen de nuestra Señora de Guadalupe dela altor, cuerpo, tamaño, y hermosura, que hasta el dia de hoy ha tenido, y que yendo descogiendo dicha Tilma, se fueron cayendo por el suelo, y Sitial de su S. Ilma. mucha cantidad de hermosísimas flores de varios, y singulares olores, y colores, y entre ellas muchas de Alexandría, que comunmente llaman de Castilla, de que quedo maravillado con el demás resto de su familia, que á lo referido concurrió. Digan en particular; y den razon &. Como tambien, que si la tradicion, que en esto ha habido por Personas Vulgares, ó si entre las de mas cuenta, é importancia de esta dicha Ciudad, y Reinos de la Nueva España, presidiendo siempre Voz comun, sin haberse hablado, oido ni entendido cosa en contrario, &c.
3a--Item si saben, que dicho Sr. Arzobispo, habiendo experimentado lo contenido en la pregunta antecedente, trató, y con efecto dispuso con la Veneracion, y decencia, que se requiere dar divino culto á dicha Santa Imagen fabricandole Iglesia, y Hermita en el Sitio, Puesto, y Lugar, en que dicho Juan Diego señaló, y dixo habersele aparecido dicha Santa Imagen en las ocasiones que le dió dichos recados para su S. Ilma., donde hasta el dia de hoy ha estado, y está colocada donde se ha frecuentado continuamente, irla á ver y visitar muchas, y diferentes Personas de todos estados yendo en Romerias á su Casa de Novenas, que para este efecto tiene la dicha Hermita, y en ella han experimentado inumerables milagros, que la Divina Magestad se ha servido obrar por medio, é intercesion de dicha Santa Imagen, y cada dia se reconocen. Digan en particular de los que supieren, y tuvieren ciencia cierta, y remítanse á los autos judiciales, ó extrajudiciales, que en razon de todo lo referido, ó parte de ello se hubieren escrito, y fulminado, así al tiemp de dicha Aparicion, como despues de haberse fabricado dicha Hermita para dicha colocacion &.
4a--Item si saben, que el Ayate, y Tilma, en que así quedó, ha estado, y está estampada la milagrosa Imagen de nuestra Señora, era el Capote, ó Ferreruelo de que usaba para cubrirse el dicho Juan Diego, como lo hacian, y observaban los Naturales de esta Nueva España, es un genero de lienzo de la tierra tan burdo, y basto, que por ninguna manera, ni por diligencia humana es capaz de admitir, ni recibir en sí la imprimacion, y aparejo de que los Artífices en el Arte de Pincel se vacilen para poder pintar cualquiera Imagen, y Pensamiento, y que sin dich imprimacion, y aparejo, no ha habido, ni puede haber quien lo pueda conseguir en los otros lienzos, y texidos tupidos, é iguales, de que para dicho efecto se valen. Digan &c.
5a--Item si saben, ó han tenido tradicion, que el dicho Juan Diego Indio era hombre de madura edad, y siempre vivió honesta, y recogidamente, buen Christiano, temeroso de Dios nuestro Señor, y de su conciencia, sin desdecir sus costumbres, y modo de proceder en cosa alguna, que fuese notable, causando con todo ello, y ajustado proceder much exemplo á todos los que lo conocieron, trataron, y comunicaron. Digan, y dén razon &c.
6a--Item si saben, que en conformidad de lo imposible de poderse aparejar, é imprimar dicho lienzo de Aiate, saben, y tienen por cierto, sin poner en ello duda, que el hallarse estampada en la Tilma del dicho Juan Diego Indio la dicha Santa Imagen de nuestra Señora, fué, y se debe atribuir, y entender haber sido obra sobre natural, y secreto reservado á la Divina Magestad, como la conservacion de los colores de su rostro, y manos, ropaje de Tunica, y Manto, que la entresacan, y distinguen de unas Nubes blancas, que tiene por orla, y campo, que cada dia con haber pasado tanto transcurso de tiempo parecen mas vivas, y acabadas de poner, juntamente con las estrellas, y rayos de oroo, que tiene en dicho Manto, y Tunica, y salen á la redondez de todo el cuerpo; y que á este paso ha tenido la mesma conservacion el Seraphin, que tiene á los piés, con demostracion á lo que parece de estar sosteniendo el cuerpo de dicha Santa Imagen. Digan, y den razon &c.
7a--Item si saben, que es tan perfecta, y hermosa la dicha Imagen, que no ha habido, ni se ha hallado Maestro, ni Oficial en el Arte de la Pintura, que la haya podido retratar, ni copiar de las muchas, é inumerables, que se han hecho con la igualdad, perfeccion, color, y hermosura, que demuestra su original, aunque á cada uno, que se la retratan por su devocion le parece ser la mas perfecta á dicha original de las que se han copiado, de que hacen los aprecios, y estimaciones, que es notorio. Digan &c.
8a--Item digan, y declaren la calidad, y temperamento del sitio, y territorio, en que se fabricó la dicha Iglesia, y Hermita, en orden á ser seco, ó humedo, y consiguientemente á que se debe atribuir la conservacion de dicha Imagen, y circunstancias, que á cada testigo pareciere en razon de ello. Digan, y dèn razon &c.
9a--Item de publico, y notorio, publica voz, y fama &c.--Doctor Francisco de Siles.
This Interrogatorio drawn up by Siles has some leading questions, which contain a summary of the basic facts of the Guadalupe narrative as well as statements about the miraculous nature of the holy image. We must be careful, then, to distinguish those parts of the testimony that merely repeat what is declared in the questions from new information that is spontaneously volunteered by the witnesses.
First, the witnesses were informed of Dr. Siles' office and titles, and asked how they have come to know about the tradition, either directly or indirectly.
The second question asks the witnesses to confirm various facts in the proposed apparition narrative. These putative facts are (a) that on December 12, 1531, Juan Diego, an Indian then residing in Cuauhtitlan, went to the Archbishop's [sic]palace to see the Prelate, who was then D. Fr. Juan de Zumárraga, and sought to speak on behalf of Our Lady, as he had brought previous messages; (b) Juan Diego then said that Our Lady told him to tell the bishop to take the flowers in the tilma he wore as a proof of the previous messages; (c) upon spreading out the flowers in order to examine them, the Archbishop saw imprinted the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as it remains to this day; (d) a great quantity of flowers fell to the floor from the spread tilma, of various colors and scents, including many Alexandrian or Castilian flowers, before which the bishop and his household marveled. Note that the question does not feed the witness any details about the earlier apparitions.
On this and all subsequent questions, the witnesses were expected to supply additional details and reasons. They were also supposed to tell whether the tradition they received came from vulgar persons, or from persons of importance, or if this had always been common knowledge that no one had ever contradicted. The emphasis on testimony from important persons is especially useful, since it helps us distinguish elements of the tradition from rumors or fables among the ignorant. Fortunately, the democratic ideology denying distinctions of social status before the law did not exist at this time, and courts wisely recognized that men of higher caliber are more trustworthy, while the vulgar frequently tell falsehoods, even under oath, out of ignorance or lack of scruples.
The third question asked if the witness knew that the said Archbishop, having experienced the events mentioned in the previous question, established a divine cult for the Holy Image by building a Church and "Hermitage" (a shrine without a priest) on the "site, position, and place" (an Aristotelian distinction) that Juan Diego indicated. This was where he said the Holy Image had appeared, on the occasions when she had given him said messages for the Archbishop. The Image remained there to the present time (1666), where it has been seen and visited by many. People of all stations in life have gone there for pilgrimages and novenas. Pilgrims have experienced countless miracles through the intercession of the Holy Image. The witness is to speak specifically about those miracles of which he knows and has certain information. For all of the above, the witness is to refer to any judicial or extrajudicial acts in which these facts were mentioned or partly written, from the time of the apparition and after the building of the shrine.
In this third question, we see that the events mentioned in the second question are only those that would have been witnessed by the Archbishop and his household. Since the Archbishop is long deceased, the present witnesses are asked to provide evidence that he really did experience these events. One proof would be his establishment of a divine cult for the Holy Image by giving it its own shrine. The authenticity of the cult is established by the numerous miracles witnessed since then. Indeed, at the time, this was considered the most powerful evidence of the truth of the tradition, since God would not work miracles for a falsely established cult. The witnesses are asked to appeal to "judicial or extrajudicial acts," in apparent reference to lost ecclesiastical documents that could only be known now by verbal testimony. These would help establish that Bishop Zumárraga really did intend to recognize the Apparition of the Holy Image with an ecclesiastically approved divine cult. Note that the question speaks of the Holy Image as appearing to Juan Diego on the mount. This manner of speaking, identifying the personal apparition of the Blessed Virgin with her Holy Image, believed to be a perfect replica of the former, will be encountered in some sixteenth-century written testimonies.
The fourth question asks if they know that the ayate or tilma on which the miraculous Image was imprinted was the cloak worn by Juan Diego, in the custom of the natives at that time, and that it is a cloth so coarse that it would be impossible to paint such an image by human artifice.
The fifth question asks if the witnesses know or have had a tradition that Juan Diego was mature in age, and always lived honestly as a good Christian, and set a notable example for others. For the purposes of the ecclesiastical inquiry, it was necessary to establish that the seer was a credible man of good, orthodox character.
The sixth question asks, given that the Image could not have been made by natural means, whether the subsequent preservation of its vivid colors and details should be attributed to a supernatural work.
The seventh question asks if the Image is so perfect and beautiful that no master artist would have been able to paint or imitate its features perfectly. This is a separate question from the fourth, which asked if the Image could not be painted by natural means on account of the coarseness of the cloth. Now, the witnesses are asked if an artist could replicate the Image even if given a normal canvas.
In the eighth question, the witnesses are asked to testify about the climate of the shrine, whether it is dry or humid, and how this pertains to the preservation of the Image.
The ninth question asks the witnesses to affirm if what they have testified is widely and publicly known. This is necessary in order to establish that the Guadalupan tradition has been well known for many decades, and was not a recent invention.
D. Marcos Pacheco
Doña Juana de la Concepcion
D. Pablo Xuarez
D. Martin de S. Luis
D. Juan Xuarez
Eight of the witnesses who gave depositions were indigenous inhabitants of Cuautitlán, Juan Diego's hometown. These consisted of one mestizo and seven Indians. The latter spoke little or no Spanish, so their testimony was obtained by the aid of four interpreters (three Spanish and one mestizo). The interpreters all took a solemn legal oath (the priest swore in verbo Sacerdotis; others swore to God and the Cross) not to add or omit anything of what they heard from the witnesses. Depositions were given in the presence of the ecclesiastical judge D. Antonio de Gama (the same who would later publish Becerra Tanco's Felicidad de México in 1675). Francisco de Siles was also present to ensure that the questions were given as he had formulated them.
The first witness was D. Marcos Pacheco, a mestizo aged more than eighty years (i.e., born c. 1585), who testified at Cuautitlán on January 7, 1666. The witness was a native of that town, and the son of D. Francisco Pacheco (Spanish) and Juana Gomez (Indian), both of whom were also natives of that town and died there when the witness was fifteen or sixteen (c. 1600). The witness had been the mayor of the Indians in that province twice, and had held other public offices for fifteen to twenty years. Clearly, the investigators had not selected some common elderly Indian, but a man of considerable importance.
In answer to the second question (regarding the apparitions), Don Marcos distinctly recalled what he had heard from Doña María Pacheco, his father's sister (therefore Spanish), when he was a strapping young man (mozeton), old enough to understand. On many occasions, in the evening she would tell of Juan Diego to him and his brothers, saying she hoped God would make them like Juan Diego. According to Doña María, Juan Diego was a native of Cuautitlán who lived in the neighborhood of "Tlaiac." She knew him and his wife María Lucía, as well as his uncle Juan Bernardino, because they were all relatives of her mother-in-law. Don Marcos did not recall ever having heard what was the exact degree of their relatedness.
Doña María told the witness and his brothers how Juan Diego was on his way to learn doctrine from the Franciscans in the church of "Tlatelulco" outside the city, when one Saturday the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to him near the hills where her shrine now stands. She gave him a message for him to tell the Guey Teopisque, which means the Great Priest, or Archbishop, so that he would build a shrine for her there. Juan Diego had heard music there, but he could not see who was singing. He then delivered the message to the archbishop; the witness could not recall his aunt ever mentioning the archbishop's name. The archbishop did not believe Juan Diego, who returned to the Lady and then brought back another message. The archbishop then asked for him to bring signs.
Finally, when Juan Diego was on his way to the church in Tlatelulco to bring a religious to hear the confession of his uncle Juan Bernardino, who had fallen ill in Cuautitlán, he went by a different path to avoid "the Lady", as he called her. Still, she appeared in his path for a third time, and asked him to bring flowers as a sign. He found many different flowers, though it was the most sterile time of the year, and he cut these and brought them in his tilma of ayate, which the natives of that time used as a cloak. He brought these flowers to the archbishop.
Doña María was able to relate all of this with great clarity and precision (con toda distinción) because she had heard it "from the mouth of said Juan Diego," and it was then known publicly throughout that town and elsewhere. He brought those flowers, which are the same that Doña María saw stamped on the tilma where the Most Holy Virgin is painted, to the archbishop. Casting these to the floor at the feet of the archbishop, there was found stamped on the ayate the Most Holy Virgin in the same form that exists today in her shrine. Seeing such a great miracle, the archbishop ordered the construction of the shrine, and news of the great miracle spread.
When Juan Diego returned to Cuautitlán, he saw that his uncle Juan Bernardino had healed. Don Marcos recalls that his aunt told him that many people from the surrounding areas gathered for the festivity of the apparition, as did everyone from Cuautitlán, including herself. At the public feast there were trumpets, oboes (chirimias), and kettledrums (atabales). Afterwards, many Indian maidens and men went to the shrine weekly to perfume and sweep it.
Doña María died aged "more than seventy, or eighty years," according to the witness. Since Don Marcos would have been a mocetón around the year 1600, his aunt could not have been born much earlier than 1530. She would have been old enough to have known Juan Diego before he died in 1548, but not old enough to remember the apparition. Her firsthand account of Guadalupan festivities cannot be describing the translation of the Image in 1531, but must be referring to later festivals.
This testimony about the apparitions gives several marks of being independent of published accounts. We are told the specific neighborhood, Tlayac, where Juan Diego lived. There is no name given for the archbishop, whom "the Lady" calls "Great Priest," or Guey Teopisque (Huey Teopixqui in modern Castilianization). The term Guey belongs to a more archaic, forgotten Nahuatl not used by ecclesiastics, implying that this datum is of authentic indigenous origin. Most strikingly, there are only three apparitions: the initial visitation, then the appearance after Juan Diego's first rebuff by the bishop, and finally the interception of Juan Diego's search for a priest, which is expressly called the "third time." There is no mention of Juan Diego going to the Blessed Virgin immediately after the bishop demanded a sign (the third apparition in published accounts), nor of the apparition to Juan Bernardino (the fifth apparition).
In answer to the third question, Don Marcos said he saw many people visit the shrine of Guadalupe, and that they have experienced countless miracles by the intercession of the Holy Image. For many years they have recognized that the Blessed Virgin works miracles for those drinking or bathing in the water of the well adjoining the shrine, which is much clearer than other fresh water. This is all common knowledge in his town, since it is where Juan Diego was born and lived. The Indians of that town told his aunt that they had built a small lodge attached to the Hermitage of adobe. There he died, as this is recorded in judicial papers. Since Don Marcos was twice the mayor of Cuautitlán, he was in an excellent position to confirm that Juan Diego was a documented historical person, who died in the little house built for him adjoining the shrine.
To the fourth question, Don Marcos said that he had seen and also heard from his elders that the Indians had always used nothing more than a tilma as a cloak, which hung from the neck, and is today used in the same manner. It was said by his aunt and by many other persons that Juan Diego wore a tilma made of ayate, which is a coarse, rough cloth woven by hand from threads of maguey. It is impossible to paint on this cloth. Even if you try to mark it with coal, it will skip, and you cannot make a straight line. From this, it is evident that the Image is miraculous.
To the fifth question, Pacheco answered that his aunt told him she had known Juan Diego, his wife María Lucía, and his uncle Juan Bernardino quite well, because they were born in this same town. Juan Diego was an honest Indian and a good Christian with many good habits, which is why she frequently told her nephews, "May God make you like Juan Diego, and his uncle," as both were reputed to be very good Indians and very good Christians. Pacheco is certain and does not doubt that they were, for he clearly remembers seeing in the old dormitory of the town's church, a painting on the wall of a Franciscan, named "Fray so-and-so (fulano) de Gante", and after it was painted Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino with signs above, saying, "this is Juan Diego, and this is Juan Bernardino". Similarly, there were paintings of other Indians, unlabeled. He saw these pictures every day in the church, but now they are half erased, because half the wall was torn down and renovated.
Pacheco's aunt also said that Juan Diego was a widower at the time of the apparitions, and was more than fifty-five or fifty-six years old. He was good enough of a Christian for the Blessed Virgin to appear to him. The witness thinks this is confirmed by the fact that he is depicted in very ancient paintings in friaries as facing the Virgin, which would not be done if he were not a good Christian.
For reasons of chronology, it is extremely unlikely that María Pacheco could have known Juan Diego's wife personally. It is possible that Don Marcos misremembered this point, or that Doña María did not intend to assert direct personal knowledge of María Lucía, only that she knew much about her because they were from the same town. Note that there is no mention of Juan Diego's chaste marriage, though Pacheco interestingly observes that a painting of Pedro de Gante, the Franciscan preacher who supposedly inspired the couple to become chaste, was adjacent to that of Juan Diego.
To the sixth question, Pacheco answered that he judges the Image to be impossible to paint, on account of the coarseness of Juan Diego's tilma. Also, in the seventy-five years that he has observed the Image, it has remained in the same state of preservation. Lastly, the Seraphim holding up the body of the Image signifies that the Image is of supernatural origin.
Pacheco considered the seventh question to be sufficiently addressed by his previous answers.
In reply to the eighth question, Pacheco characterized the climate at Guadalupe as humid and dry (i.e., in different seasons) due to being near a lake and a river, and at the top of a hill, where there are strong winds carrying the vapors of the earth. As the shores of the lake have dried up, there remains a vary salty land, the vapors from which eat and erase any kind of painting. The town of Cuautitlán has the same climate as Guadalupe, with a fine, saline earth, so that no painting lasts twenty or thirty years before it starts to lose its colors. Even the foundations of walls are eaten by the saline earth. This is why there is no painting, even by famous artists and well primed, that does not begin to lose its colors in a few years.
To the ninth question, Pacheco answered that everything he has declared is public knowledge in New Spain and in the town of Cuautitlán. He affirmed and ratified what he had said, and did not sign his testimony because he did not know how to write. Instead it is signed by the judge, Dr. Antonio de Gama, and by the notary who recorded all the testimony, Juan Romero.
On account of his standing as a public official with many years of service, Marcos Pacheco is a highly credible witness. The strongest points of his testimony involve that which he personally witnessed, such as the ancient paintings of Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino, the preservation of the Image in his lifetime, and the general currency of the story of the apparitions in Cuautitlán throughout his life. This suffices to establish that the basic apparition narrative dated back to at least around 1600.
The more questionable part of his testimony is that which depends on what he heard from his aunt María Pacheco around 1600. First, we may question the accuracy of his memory after such a long period of time, though he repeatedly insists that he remembers certain things clearly and distinctly. Details that were repeated frequently, such as his aunt saying, "May God make you like Juan Diego," were almost certainly remembered correctly. With other details, it might not always be clear which were provided by his aunt and which came from later tellings of the apparition story. Still, we have seen enough differences from the published narratives to suggest that his account is independent of them, and attests to an older tradition.
Even if the apparition narrative recounted by Marcos Pacheco is substantially the same as that told to him by his aunt about sixty-five years earlier, we still need to know something about the credibility of the aunt. It was impossible to examine the aunt directly, which is why hearsay evidence is inadmissible in criminal trials. Here, however, we are not trying to convict someone of a crime, but only to establish likely facts. Pacheco evidently thought highly enough of his aunt's character to repeat what she said as truth, but it is at least conceivable that she did not intend everything she said as historical fact. One might suspect it was a sort of bedtime story to tell the children, but Pacheco says he was postpubescent. At that age, Indian boys were entrusted with the important task of memorizing sacred histories, so it is hardly likely that an elder would tell them a story she did not believe to be true. Still, it is possible she exaggerated her level of direct acquaintance with the principals of the apparitions, or that she was mistaken in her own recollection of various details. Points such as these will need to be addressed by comparison with the testimony of other witnesses.
Interestingly, Pacheco refers to "judicial papers" pertaining to the death of Juan Diego at the house built for him by the shrine, yet he is unable to sign his own name. As a public official in a small Indian town, this was not unusual. He would have relied on a scribe or clerk to read documents aloud to him.
Overall, Pacheco's testimony, if accurate, provides some fascinating insight into early accounts of the apparition narrative. We will need to examine further testimony in order to better appreciate its weight and significance.
The second witness was Gabriel Xuarez, an Indian of Cuautitlán, who testified on January 8, 1666. Unlike Pacheco, he knew no Spanish, so he gave his testimony through interpreters. He was chosen because he was well spoken in Nahuatl and knowledgeable of all the affairs of Cuautitlán. He was born in that town, in the neighborhood of San Joseph Tequixquinagua, which is next to that of Tlayacác (Juan Diego's neighborhood, according to Marcos Pacheco). He was the son of Matheo Xuarez and Luisa Salomé, both natives of the same neighborhood.
As was common among elderly Indians at the time, Gabriel Xuarez did not know his age, but the investigators estimated that it must have been over 110, based on his appearance and on his testimony that he had seen the first Viceroy D. Luis de Velasco (there were two of that name), who died in 1564. Naturally, many historians have found this claim of extreme longevity to be incredible, and have inferred that the witness is unreliable. On the contrary, Xuarez himself never directly claimed to be 110 or any other age. His testimony about Velasco is in fact quite accurate, but the investigators mistakenly interpreted it as referring to the first Luis de Velasco, rather than the second viceroy of that name.
Xuarez said he saw D. Luis de Velasco in the town Tultitlán (northwest of Mexico), which is next to Cuautitlán. He said the Viceroy was tuerto, having only one good eye, and that he went to Peru to become Viceroy there. He said he was about nine years old on that occasion, from which the investigators deduced a minimum age of 110, since the first Luis de Velasco died in 1564. However, closer examination of Xuarez's testimony makes clear that he is speaking of the second Luis de Velasco, son of the first and Viceroy of New Spain from 1590 to 1595.
The younger Velasco was a member of the landed gentry since 1566, and acted as liaison to the viceroy. One of his most important estates was in Tultitlán, which he visited when he could. He went to Spain in 1572, and returned to New Spain in 1575, after which he became one of the wealthiest men in the colony. He again went to Spain in 1585, and returned as Viceroy of New Spain in January 1590. He served as Viceroy until November 1595, when he left to assume his new office as Viceroy of Peru. All this matches Xuarez's testimony, as does the fact that Velasco had a chronic ocular disease in his left eye, causing the lid to droop, as can be seen in a 1589 portrait. An illiterate Indian would have no access to Spanish historical documents, making the accuracy of his testimony more impressive. Thus, taking Xuarez at his word on this matter, he was about nine years old in 1595, when Velasco left for Peru, so he was born around 1586, in which case he was aged eighty at the time of the interrogation.
The Informaciones also record that Xuarez recalled when Velasco went to Spain. Since this is mentioned after the testimony about Velasco's departure for Peru, it is likely that Xuarez was referring to Velasco's later departure for Spain in 1611, after his second term as Viceroy of New Spain (1607-1610). The rest of Xuarez' testimony, then, may be interpreted in light of the probable fact that he was born around 1586.
Xuarez says that at that time (c. 1595) the church of Cuautitlán had only been recently completed, and it was no more than a small dormitory, with a tiny patio. There was no organ, nor was there any icon (retablo) over the main altar, as there is today (1666). The patio had no chapel of San Francisco, though that chapel today is very old. He says he saw in the friary a Franciscan called Padre Gante, and he also knew a Fray so-and-so de Escalona. This would seem to refer to Pedro de Gante (d. 1572) and Fray Alonso de Escalona (d. 1584), who could not have been contemporaries of Xuarez unless he was a centenarian. It is possible that Xuarez was actually speaking of portraits of these important Franciscans, such as Pacheco had beheld, keeping in mind that some Indians still had the habit of speaking of images as identical with the people represented.
Xuarez heard of the miracle of Guadalupe from his father. His father said Our Lady appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego, a resident of the adjacent neighborhood of Tlayacac, which Xuarez' father knew well. Xuarez was told this story even when he was an adult, but he could not remember if there were one, two or three apparitions. When he was six or seven, his father took him to the shrine, which was then made of bare adobe without lime. Many Indian men and women from the town came to sweep and incense the shrine, because Juan Diego was from their town. The apparition story was well known, and honored in public feasts with trumpets and drums, as his father said, and as Xuarez heard from other natives throughout the town, when he was aged fifteen to twenty. In his youth, Xuarez saw many people bring incense pots and flowers to the shrine.
The story told by his father, mother, and many other persons on many occasions was that Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to Juan Diego many times, and told him to tell the Archbishop to build her a shrine where it is today built. No one was willing to believe him, until finally they believed because of the signs of roses that he carried in his ayate or tilma, on which the Holy Image was found stamped.
Xuarez says the Image works many miracles every day, and that it has not lost its colors or beauty in the eighty or ninety years of his life (making a rough estimate of his own age). He believes the Image is miraculous, and that the Virgin has given him a long enough life to be able to declare this.
To the third question, Xuarez says he heard that "the said Holy Image, told said Juan Diego the location and place" where the shrine was to be built, which was the place where she appeared to him. Note that Xuarez says the Image speaks to Juan Diego, showing that he does indeed have the habit of identifying images with the persons they represent, as posited earlier. He says he has seen the original shrine, where many Indians have gone to visit the Image and ask for remedy, or to ask Juan Diego to intercede for those of his town.
To the fourth question, Xuarez answers that tilmas have always been made of a coarse ayate, and were woven by hand, not by loom, since there were no looms. In all his long life, he never saw a tilma woven of wool, because there were none. From this it is evident that Juan Diego's tilma was made of coarse ayate, because there was no other kind. He heard the same from his father, his mother, and all the natives of the region, and he himself saw as much at that time. It is too loose a weave to be painted on, which is why he does not doubt that the painting is supernatural.
In reply to the fifth question, the witness says what he was told by his parents at that time more than ninety years ago (either another rough estimate by Xuarez or an interpretative gloss by the investigators). Juan Diego was a good Christian who always lived quietly and honestly without drawing notice or scandal. He was always occupied in the service of God, punctually attending catechism (doctrina) and the divine office with regularity. All the Indians of that time said he was a saintly man, and called him "the Pilgrim", because he always traveled alone, as he went alone to the church of Tlatelulco.
After the apparitions, Juan Diego left his houses and lands to an uncle of his, because his wife had died. He went to live in a little house that was attached to the hermitage. There many natives would go see him and ask him to intercede with the Most Holy Virgin for temporal goods for their milpas ("fields"). Only to him and no one else would the Virgin appear. He was always very contrite and did many penances. This was all well known in the town and its neighborhoods.
To the sixth question, the witness again says it is impossible for the Image to have been painted on the tilma by hand. In the eighty or ninety years he has been to the shrine, he has always seen the Most Holy Virgin with the same colors as when he last visited two years ago.
Xuarez' answer to the seventh question is contained in his previous testimony.
To the eighth question, Xuarez answers that the climate of that area is affected by the dried lake, from which the wind carries salty, fine earth. This damages paintings and stronger objects, even tarnishing silver. The colors of paintings become moth-eaten, as can be seen in one painting that the witness owned, which cost twelve pesos of good paint. Though it was well crafted, forty years later all the colors are eaten, and the figures are indiscernible. For this reason, it is impossible that the Holy Image was painted by human hand, and its preservation is supernatural.
To the ninth question, the witness responded that he swore the testimony given was true, after it was read back to him by the interpreters. He could not sign his name, so instead the judge and the four interpreters signed, as did the notary.
Gabriel Xuarez' testimony is valuable for its signs of independence from published apparition narratives and from Marcos Pacheco's testimony. He does not know how many apparitions there were, and does not mention Juan Bernardino's illness. Later, he appears to say that the Virgin spoke to Juan Diego "many times" before his mission to the Archbishop, but he might be referring to the many visitations Juan Diego is said to have had afterward.
Xuarez attests to the antiquity of the devotion to the Holy Image and to Juan Diego, going back at least to the 1590s. His observations of the original simple adobe shrine and the old church of Cuautitlán may help date his account, in combination with other testimony. He adds details about how Juan Diego was perceived as a holy man or "the Pilgrim," as well how Indians sought his intercession even while he lived. He confirms Pacheco's testimony about festivals with trumpets and drums, as well as the sweeping and incensing of the shrine. He also mentions that people brought flowers and incense pots there.
Like Pacheco, Xuarez judges the painting to be of supernatural origin on account of the fact that all tilmas were made of coarse, hand woven ayate. He also testifies to its miraculous preservation in the face of the highly destructive climate.
The most difficult aspect of Xuarez's testimony is determining chronology. It often seems that he jumps between time periods, going between early childhood and young adulthood. His facts are generally credible and accurate where they can be verified, but his concept of chronology may be slightly confused, which is to be expected in a man of extreme age. He repeatedly indicates that he is testifying about what happened "eighty or ninety years" ago, suggesting he is older than what would be indicated by his apparent claim to have been nine years old when Velasco went to Peru. Perhaps he meant he was nine when he saw Velasco in Tultitlán, in which case we might push back his birth year as far as the early 1570s. The events of his testimony, then, can be dated no more precisely than around 1580-1595.
The third witness at Cuautitlán was an Indian named Andres Juan, who gave his testimony through interpreters on January 9, 1666. He was chosen because of his ability to understand the formal questions and to repeat them distinctly. He had been a public official and a military officer (mandón) for the Indians of this town, in which he was born. He was the son of Ventura Xuarez and Anna María, residents of that town from the neighborhood of San Juan Atempam. They died three years before the Congregation of the Indians in this kingdom. The Congregation of Indians in New Spain (1591-1604) took effect in Cuautitlán in 1604 (Charles Gibson, The Aztecs under Spanish rule, 1964, pp. 293-294), so his parents died in 1601. At the time of interrogation, Andrés Juan lived in the neighborhood of Theacoac.
Andrés Juan did not know his age, but the investigators estimated he was 112 to 115 years old, based on his knowledge of the first Viceroy D. Luis de Velasco when he was ten years old, and that the first governor of this town was Don Francisco Sanchez. Again, the investigators have misinterpreted the testimony to give a physically implausible age. Andrés Juan's reference to the first Luis de Velasco probably meant the first of the two reigns of the younger Luis de Velasco (1590-1595, 1607-1611). The critical piece of evidence for determining his true age is his claim that he was "over ten years old" during a "big cocolixtle" plague that killed "a great many people." There were three mega-epidemics of cocoliztli in the sixteenth century: in 1519-1520 (smallpox), 1545-1548 and 1576-1578 (indigenous hemorrhagic fevers). The first two cannot be intended, since that would make him at least 130 years old, so he must mean that of 1576-1578. This means he was born around 1566, making him close to one hundred years old.
In reply to the first question, Andres Juan claimed no special credentials, only that he knew about the apparitions for the reasons he would give in answer to subsequent questions.
To the second question, Andres Juan answered that the apparition to Juan Diego must have occurred only a few years before he was born, because his parents personally knew of this miracle (lo conocían muy bien). They told him that when it occurred, it was proclaimed publicly with trumpets, oboes and drums, and a great public festival. Most of the people from Cuautitlán went, some to bring flowers, and others to do dances according to custom, because Juan Diego was from that town. Andres Juan's parents told him how the Mother of God of Guadalupe appeared to the Indian, when Juan Diego was on the way to learn doctrine from the Franciscans at the church in Tlatelulco. She appeared three times on the place where her shrine now stands. Twice he brought the message of the Sovereign Virgin to the lord bishop or archbishop who was then in the city of Mexico, but he was not believed. On the third time he brought roses, some different than others, as signs to be believed. The Queen of the Angels ordered him to cut the flowers on the hill, near where the shrine is now built.
Juan Diego brought this third message to the lord archbishop; the witness could not remember if his parents ever said the prelate's name. He heard from his parents and many other Indians from that time that Juan Diego brought the flowers and roses in a tilma of ayate tied to his neck, as was customary among the Indians. He unfolded the ayate, and the flowers and roses fell to the floor, and there was stamped on the ayate or tilma the Most Holy Virgin in the same way as it appears today in her holy shrine.
Within a few years, when the witness was about eleven, his father took him to the shrine in the company of many other Indians. It was very small and narrow, made of adobe without lime. In that shrine there was only the Virgin of Guadalupe on that ayate, in the same form as it exists today on its altar.
Since the miracle was still recent and had occurred to an Indian of Cuautitlán, all the Indians of that town went to the shrine weekly to work on its construction, and the women went to sweep and perfume it. The witness remembers all this clearly, despite the many years passed, because it seems that the "Sovereign Queen of Heaven, Mother of God of Guadalupe" has given him life long enough to declare this.
Answering the third question, Andres Juan said that his parents and other people of that time told him very distinctly that, after the apparition, the bishop or archbishop ordered the construction of the shrine, with the veneration proper to a divine cult of the Holy Image. The shrine was built on the location indicated by Juan Diego, where he said the Holy Image appeared to him three times (like Xuarez, the present witness speaks of the Image appearing to Juan Diego). This is where the present shrine is built, now improved with lime.
People of all stations visit the shrine, saying novenas, and have experienced countless miracles through the intercession of the Holy Image. The witness also says that great miracles have occurred after drinking or bathing in the water of a well next to the shrine, though it is not very fresh. Some of these miracles have been written on paper.
To the fourth question, the witness answered that the tilma on which the miraculous Image is stamped is what the Indians - in particular the Aztecs (Mexicanos) - used to cover themselves. It is a cloth too rough and coarse to be used for any kind of painting or printing. It is not densely woven, but is made of maguey fibers woven by hand, not by loom. The witness never saw looms nor wool in those days.
In reply to the fifth question, Andres Juan said that his parents spoke to him extensively and in detail about Juan Diego's life when he was old enough to understand, aged fifteen or twenty. Juan Diego was a native of the neighborhood of Tlayacac, and was married to María Lucía, who died two or three years before the apparition. The witness also heard them say he had an uncle Juan Bernardino. All were natives of Tlayacac, and Juan Diego was a very quiet, peaceful man, a good Christian, never giving notice or scandal. He regularly attended doctrine and divine office at the church of Tlatelulco.
It was publicly known at that time, about a hundred years ago, that Juan Diego was a man who always went alone to go to doctrine, so that he seemed a pilgrim because of how little he conversed with others. After the apparition, Juan Diego was regarded as a holy man, and people went to see him at the shrine, which had a little adjoining house, so that he would intercede with the Blessed Virgin for temporal goods. The witness had personally been at that little house where Juan Diego had served.
To the sixth question, the witness replied that he did not doubt the Image was miraculous, because it had preserved all its colors, from when he first saw it close to a hundred years ago, to when he saw it four years ago. Today the colors, stars and golden rays on her mantle are more vivid, from which it is clear that the Image is supernatural, not made by human hands.
The witness considered the seventh question answered by his previous testimony.
In answer to the eighth question, Andres Juan attested that the climate is seasonally humid and dry, being near a lake and a large river, backed by hills, where winds carry salty dust. There are many natives near the shrine who have the occupation of harvesting salt. The saline breezes are strong enough to consume any kind of paint, and even silver is tarnished. In the town, even great paintings by famous artists lose their colors and become pockmarked after twenty, thirty or forty years. It is well known that the earth is of such bad quality that it eats even the foundations of houses, and the same quality is in the land where the shrine is built. For these reasons, the witness considers the preservation of the Image to be miraculous.
In response to the ninth question, the witness affirmed that everything he said was publicly known in this town and outside it, and that it was true. He ratified his testimony after it was read to him and translated. He did not know how to sign his name, so this was done by the judge, the interpreters and the notary.
Andres Juan's testimony corroborates many details volunteered by the other witnesses. He recalls the sweeping and incensing of the shrine on a weekly basis, and attests to the widespread devotion to the Holy Image and to Juan Diego in the late sixteenth century. Like Marcos Pacheco, he says the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego exactly three times. He also identifies Juan Diego's home barrio as Tlayacac, and attests that the humble Indian was regarded as a holy man even in life, and seemed like a pilgrim in his quiet solitude.
Andres Juan tells us how simple the shrine was in his day, a humble adobe structure containing nothing but the image. If we are correct in estimating his age as close to a hundred, he visited the shrine as early as the 1570s, making his testimony the oldest thus far.
This witness seems to have believed that the apparition must have been recent (i.e., only "a few years" before the 1570s), since his parents were familiar with this event. He does not explicitly state that they knew Juan Diego, though they did tell him of a great festival celebrating the miracle. Since his parents died in 1601, it his possible that his father at least would have witnessed the first Guadalupan festival as a child in 1531. His mother could not have done so, for then she would probably be too old to give birth to the witness in the mid 1560s. We noted a similar problem with Marcos Pacheco's aunt, Doña María, who claimed to have witnessed a celebratory public feast, though she could not have been old enough to witness the translation of the Image in 1531. In both cases, the festival recounted likely occurred at a more recent date, either because this was a later commemoration, not the original procession translating the image to its new shrine, or because the latter occurred more recently than 1531.
Interestingly, Andres Juan notes that some of the greater miracles attributed to Guadalupe had been recorded on paper. We will later see further evidence that there were indeed miracle accounts recorded in the early seventeenth century.
Overall, Andres Juan's testimony is coherent and consistent with what was testified by the other witnesses, yet still containing signs of independence from them. His testimony is strongest when dealing with things he personally witnessed, such as visiting the Image in its shrine and seeing Juan Diego's little house, as well as seeing the devotions and labors practiced by many Indians from Cuautitlán. Clearly, in the 1570s or 1580s, there was little doubt in the authenticity of the apparitions and the miraculous nature of the Image among the Indians of that town.
The fourth witness in Cuautitlán was Doña Juana de la Concepcion, an Indian who testified through interpreters on January 10, 1666. She was the widow of Diego Velasquez, and was born in the town of San Miguel half a league away. She was the legitimate daughter of don Lorenzo de San Francisco Tlaxtlatzontli and Doña María de los Angeles, who were the caciques of Cuautitlán and San Miguel. They died about fifty years ago. She was apparently selected on account of her parents' status as Indian nobility, which would give them access to persons of repute.
Doña Juana said she believed herself to be about eighty-five years old. She recalled that Don Luis de Velasco (1590-95, 1607-11) was viceroy when she was very young, because her parents hosted him in their house at San Miguel on many occasions, to go hunting by the lake. Her parents married her to Diego Velasquez when she was thirty. The celebrant of the wedding was the Fray Rodrigo de Santillan, of the order of San Francisco Guardian. Said Father was a Guardian in the year 1609, which would allow the witness' birth year to be as early as 1579, in agreement with her estimated age of eighty-five.
In answer to the first question, Doña Juana said she knew of the apparition from her parents, described above.
In reply to the second question, the witness said that her father Don Lorenzo, as cacique of Cuautitlán, was the first to know things that occurred in the city of Mexico and the surrounding areas. He was a very curious Indian, and he put down what he learned in "maps," which the Indians called writings. Among these he had recorded the apparition of the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe for having appeared to Juan Diego, native of the barrio of Tlayacac. He also wrote of Juan Diego's wife María Lucía and his uncle Juan Bernardino in these maps. On two occasions he was robbed, and he lost all the papers and maps pertaining to the apparition, along with those of the lands, houses and neighborhoods of the town.
Doña Juana claims that her father knew Juan Diego, his wife and his uncle. Since Don Lorenzo died around 1615, it is possible that he would have known Juan Diego if the latter died in 1548, sixty-seven years earlier. He might have been born around 1530, in which case he was fifty when his daughter was born and eighty-five when he died. It is less likely that he would have known Juan Bernardino (d. 1544), and impossible that he could have known María Lucía if she died before 1530. If Doña Juana's recollection is accurate, we must conclude either that Don Lorenzo greatly exaggerated his familiarity with the family of Juan Diego or that the apparitions occurred more recently than 1531. The latter supposition would be consistent with other testimony we have seen so far.
Don Lorenzo told his daughter the story of the apparition when she was fifteen or twenty years old. He said that Juan Diego always went to learn doctrine on Saturdays from the Franciscans in the church of Santiago Tlatelulco. The Holy Image appeared to him at the place where her shrine now stands. She told him to go to the Bishop to tell him to build her a house. He was not believed, so he returned to the Lady, and she told him to go back there the next day, which he did, but again he was not believed. This time the bishop - the witness did not recall if Don Lorenzo said his name, only that he was a Franciscan friar - told him to bring credible signs from the Blessed Virgin. Juan Diego returned to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and she told him to return the next day. However, returning to Cuautitlán, he found his uncle Juan Bernardino gravely ill, so he went to seek a confessor at the church in Tlatelulco. So the Lady would not detain him, he went by a different path, but she appeared before him anyway. He explained his urgent errand, but the Most Holy Virgin replied that he should not worry, for her uncle was now cured, and she sent him to the hill next to the present shrine, where he found flowers and roses of all kinds, though it was December, when all was dry and sterile.
Juan Diego took the flowers in his ayate or cloak, and brought them to the bishop, without looking at or touching the flowers along the way, as the Lady commanded. Arriving at the archepiscopal houses, some servants of the Bishop wanted to see what he carried, and he finally entered after more than an hour later. Giving his message to the Bishop or Archbishop, the flowers fell to the floor, and there remained stamped on the ayate the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as it is seen today in her sanctuary. The witness heard all of this from her father, who had also written it down in clear detail.
We note that Doña Juana's account does include all four apparitions to Juan Diego, and it also briefly mentions him being detained by the bishop's servants. Though Don Lorenzo's apparent claim to be a contemporary of these events suggests they may have occurred as late as the 1550s, his identification of the bishop as a Franciscan friar could only mean Zúmarraga (d. 1548), as his successor Montúfar was not a Franciscan.
The witness also states that her father and the other notables of Cuautitlán celebrated the placement of the Image in its present location with musical instruments and dances. He heard the miracle proclaimed in the town plaza. As cacique, he was aware of everything that occurred in that town. Also he said the Indian women frequently went to the site with flowers and incense pots, while Indian men worked on the construction of the shrine. All these things were told to the witness by her parents and other people at that time, as well as many other things which she could not remember as clearly.
This last part of her testimony seems to make her father a contemporary of the apparitions, again creating the chronological difficulties noted previously. Nonetheless, her description of the festivities and subsequent labors is consistent with the reports of older witnesses. Her mention of flowers and incense pots agrees with what Gabriel Xuarez witnessed firsthand in the late sixteenth century, and Andres Juan reports that men still worked on the shrine's construction during his youth. It is possible that Doña Juana has chronologically confused different things that were told to her, mistaking later events for those immediately after the apparition.
To the third question, the witness answered that she only knew that many people went to visit the Holy Image, and many have experienced miracles. She herself had never gone to the shrine of Guadalupe.
In answer to the fourth question, she affirmed that since her earliest childhood, the Indians used only a tilma of ayate as a cloak. She said that this fiber was so coarse that it was impossible to paint on the hand-woven cloth. She saw that this cloth was used seventy, eighty or a hundred years ago, and no one then used wool, which the Indians did not have.
To the fifth question, Doña Juana answered that both her parents, having personally known Juan Diego, agreed that he was a quiet, peaceful Indian and a good Christian, fearful of God, and without any scandal in his life. Everyone considered him a saintly man (Varon Santo), and he always walked alone, punctually attending catechism (la Doctrina). After the apparition, all the Indians of the town went to see him at the hermitage, taking him to be a holy man. The witness heard this not only from her parents, but from many other persons who had gone to see him regularly. This was publicly known seventy years ago.
The witness had no response to the sixth, seventh, and eighth questions, since she had never gone to the holy shrine herself. She does not even venture to describe the climate at the shrine.
Finally, she confirmed her testimony after it was read back to her by the translators. She affirmed that the recorded testimony was what was told to her by her parents with great detail, since they had known, seen and written these things. There were many other things she did not remember, and which were recorded on the stolen papers mentioned previously. The interpreters signed for her since she did not know how to write.
Doña Juana is a fascinating witness not only because of her family background and her father's mysterious papers, but also because, with all her personal knowledge of Guadalupe, she never once visited the shrine in her long life. Still, she scrupulously avoids giving testimony about the shrine and its image based on general hearsay, but sticks to what was to told to her by her parents. This gives her testimony a special credibility, since it cannot be confused with later experiences at the shrine, nor is it the product of an overzealous pilgrim.
Her testimony about the apparitions and subsequent celebrations are consistent with what was said by other witnesses, as noted above. Her apparition narrative includes all four appearances of the Virgin to Juan Diego, and specifies that the bishop or archbishop was a Franciscan. Her testimony is most notable not for its content, but for its source, since her father was an important person who had custody of important indigenous documents.
Although her father had written down many things about Juan Diego and the apparitions, Doña Juana herself was not literate, at least not in Latin letters. She knew the subject of these writings from her father's word, or perhaps she understood or recognized some pictographs on the maps. The theft of these papers is lamentable, but not implausible, as such crimes were fairly common. This testimony should give us confidence that Indians who knew about the apparitions did make some record of them around 1600. As is often the case in predominantly oral cultures, attempts to record an important event are made only when the original witnesses are old and dying off.
While we may regret that Doña Juana's father the cacique was not himself available to give testimony, we do have an Indian governor among the witnesses at Cuautitlan. Again it is clear that the investigators were not just randomly selecting pious old Indians, but they especially favored persons of important office, family background, or good repute. D. Pablo Xuarez had served as the Indian governor of Cuautitlan on multiple occasions, including the time of the current inquiry. His father Don Pedro Xuarez had been governor for more than thirty years, and was a native of Tlatelulco. His mother, Doña Isabel Cananea, was a native of Cuautitlan and had died only seven or eight years ago, at the age of over a hundred. Don Pablo, the present witness, was approximately seventy-eight years old at the time of the inquiry. This means his recently deceased mother had probably lived to be at least ninety, and conceivably over a hundred as claimed.
The witness says that he knew Francisco de Siles personally, and that he had certain knowledge of the Apparition of the Queen of the Angels and the Mother of God of Guadalupe, because this was told to him by his parents and by his maternal grandparents, who like his mother were natives of this town.
Speaking through interpreters, the witness claimed he heard about Juan Diego from his maternal grandmother, Justina Cananea, who told him these things when he was already married and had children. Justina claimed to have known Juan Diego, María Lucía and Juan Bernardino, since they all lived in the neighborhood of Tlaiacac. She died more than forty years ago at the age of 110.
She told the witness and his mother how the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego when he was on his way to catechesis, which was then administered by the Franciscans at the Church in Tlatelulco four leagues from Cuautitlan. The witness' grandmother herself also went there to Doctrina with the rest of the people, and on several Sundays of the year a friar from Tlatelulco would come to Cuautitlan to say Mass. The Virgin appeared to Juan Diego three times on the site where the shrine now stands, and on the third time he brought a message from the Holy Image to the Lord Archbishop, he brought the signs of flowers and roses that he cut from the hill on the spot where the Virgin had appeared three times. The archbishop had not believed him the previous two times he brought messages from the Holy Image, so this time he brought the flowers and roses as signs in his tilma or ayate. Note that this witness, like others, speaks of the Virgin's apparition on the hill as the "Holy Image."
According to the witness' grandmother, when the archbishop saw the portentous miracle, he wept profusely, and shortly afterward ordered the construction of her house as the Holy Image had asked. The grandmother saw the laying of the foundations of the Holy Shrine, and she worked on it, as did all the other Indians of the town, since everyone there knew and spoke with Juan Diego.
The Indians built a very small Shrine of adobe bricks without lime, because at that time lime was not used. Justina Cananea was present when the Holy Image was brought to the shrine in a great procession from the city of Mexico. The Archbishop himself, who belonged to the Franciscan order, was in the procession, with bare feet and legs. The procession included the best people of the city, as well as the religious orders and those from the surrounding towns, but most especially those of Cuautitlan, who celebrated with dances and musical instruments. Justina saw all this and heard the miracle proclaimed with trumpets and drums.
Every eight days, the townspeople would go to work on the shrine, and bring flowers and incense, or go to see Juan Diego, who was known to all. Justina Cananea told the witness and his mother that she went there frequently, and that even the Indian children sang and spoke of the miracle. After Juan Diego moved from the town to the shrine, Justina and the other Indians would go there to ask him to intercede with the Blessed Virgin and provide them temporal goods. This was all a well known matter of public knowledge, and the witness had never heard anything to the contrary.
In answer to the third question, the witness said that his grandmother told him the archbishop had ordered the shrine built on the spot where the Virgin appeared three times to Juan Diego. Pilgrims have continually come to this shrine, and the witness had gone many times to make novenas. Many have experienced miracles through the intercession of the Holy Image, some of which have been written down.
To the fourth question, the witness answered that the ayate or tilma on which the miraculous Image was printed was the common type of cloak used by all the natives of the kingdom. It is still used today, except now they are made of wool or cotton, but at that time it was made from a type of maguey called ixtli, which was woven by hand, for there were no looms, as his grandmother and mother told him. His grandmother said this type of tilma was worn by Juan Diego and all the other natives of that town. It is such a rough, loosely woven cloth that the Indians use it to sift earth. For this reason it is impossible that anything could be painted on it.
To the fifth question, Don Pablo answered that his grandmother and her contemporaries regarded Juan Diego as good Christian. He was fifty-six or fifty-eight years old when the Virgin appeared to him. He lived an honest life without vice or scandal. He would frequently go to catechesis and the Divine Offices, and never failed in these obligations. The grandmother considered him a holy man, and asked God that her children and grandchildren would be like him.
In answer to the sixth question, the witness stated that the Holy Image of Guadalupe is miraculous in origin, not only because of the impossibility of painting on that kind of cloth, but because the colors are more vivid now than when he first saw the Image sixty years ago. He declined to answer the seventh question, on account of his lack of knowledge about painting.
To the eighth question, he said that the climate at the shrine has humid and dry seasons due to its proximity to a lake and a river. Being situated on a plain atop a hill, there are many winds from the lake that carry the saline earth. The earth is so salty that the native are able to sell salt. The saline air destroys the colors of paintings and even well cared silver is tarnished, because the town has the same climate and earth. Paintings lose their colors after twenty, thirty or forty years, and the varnish gets lifted, so that the painted figures look bad. Accordingly, the preservation of the Holy Image is supernatural.
To the ninth question, the witness answered that all he attested was public knowledge in that town and throughout Mexico. He solemnly confirmed his testimony which was read back to him, and the interpreters signed for him since he did not know how.
Don Pablo's testimony really reduces to that of his deceased grandmother, so we have to consider both the accuracy of his recollection and the credibility of his grandmother's account. Regarding the first point, he is remembering what was told forty or fifty years ago, while he was a married adult. He should have been able to retain and recall general facts accurately, especially since illiterate people are more reliant on memory. There was no reason for Justina Cananea to deceive her adult grandson, and her testimony is generally consistent with what other witnesses reported. It is still possible, however, that she was mistaken on some points or exaggerated her knowledge of the seer and his family.
Since Justina Cananea died around 1625, she would have had to be around 110 years old to have known Maria Lucia before the apparitions in 1531. If, as seems likely, her actual age was considerably less than the reported 110, due to the imprecision with which Indians knew their own ages, she would have been born only shortly before the apparitions, and could not have known Maria Lucia before 1531. It is possible that the grandmother exaggerated her proximity to Juan Diego's family; she did say, after all, that everyone in Cuautitlan "knew" (conocía) him, though it is unlikely that the town's thousands of residents knew him personally. Alternatively, it is possible that the apparitions occurred more recently than 1531, which would be consistent with other evidence we have seen.
The witness' mother Doña Isabel was born sometime between 1545 and 1555, so she would not have been a witness to the miraculous events even if they occurred as late as the 1550s. The grandmother, on the other hand, claimed to have witnessed the procession with the barefoot archbishop, who was a Franciscan. This could have occurred no later than the 1540s, so Justina Cananea had to have been born no later than the 1530s, making her at least ninety years old at her death. If the event really occurred in 1531, she had to have been at least a hundred years old.
Apart from the difficulty of chronology, the only other oddity in this testimony is that the miraculous imprinting of the image is not explicitly mentioned in the apparition narrative. This gives the impression that the miracle was the appearance of the flowers. Nonetheless, answers to subsequent questions make clear that the witness believed the Image to have been printed on Juan Diego's tilma, though he does not expressly state that his grandmother thought the same. This omission might be only apparent, for the witness follows the common custom of speaking of the apparition on the hill and the icon in the shrine indistinguishably as the "Holy Image".
Lastly, it is striking that Don Pablo, though he is governor of Cuautitlan, must rely on the personal recollection of his grandmother in order to establish the facts of this important public event. It is true that he says these facts are public knowledge, but still it is remarkable that he does not have access to a more official version of events. By contrast, D. Marcos Pacheco, who was mayor of Cuautitlan, at least knew of judicial papers documenting the death of Juan Diego in his little house adjoining the shrine. Apparently, there was no official documentation of the apparition narrative even among the Indians, except perhaps those lost maps once possessed by the cacique don Lorenzo de San Francisco Tlaxtlatzontli (father of Doña Juana de la Concepcion).
On 11 January, the investigators interviewed Don Martin de San Luis, a native of Cuautitlan who had served as mayor many times, and who was the widower of María Salomé, also an Indian. His parents, then deceased, were Don Martin de San Luis and Catharina Ruiz, both natives of that town. The witness was about eighty years old. Answering the first question, he claimed no special credentials.
At the age of ten or twelve years, the witness heard of the apparition story many times for Diego de Torres Bullon, a native of that town who was the master of the chapel in the local church for many years. At the time Diego de Torres was aged eighty to ninety years. He was very intelligent and knowledgeable, and he could read and write. He claimed to have conversed with Juan Diego, a native of the neighborhood of Tlayacac, and he also knew María Lucía and Juan Bernardino. He told the witness in great detail how in the year 1531, when the Archbishop of Mexico was a Franciscan, the Queen of Heaven appeared to Juan Diego at the present site of the shrine of Guadalupe. She told Juan Diego to tell the Archbishop to build her a house on that site, as well as other things the witness could not remember. When Juan Diego delivered the message, the archbishop did not believe him. He returned to the Virgin, and she sent him a second time. This time the Archbishop told him to bring signs that he may believe him. Juan Diego delivered this message to the Virgin, and she told him to return the next day, and she would then give him signs so that others would believe.
Upon returning to town, Juan Diego found that his uncle Juan Bernardino was ill with the cocolixtle, as they called typhus fever (tabardillo). Accordingly, the next day Juan Diego had to go to the church of Santiago Tlatelulco (where the natives of Cuautitlan received sacraments and heard Mass) to get a confessor for his uncle. To avoid delay, he took a different path from the one where he encountered the Virgin. Nonetheless, Our Lady appeared in his path. She told him not to worry, for his uncle was healed, and she signaled him to go to a place where he found flowers and roses of all kinds. He gathered the flowers in his tilma of ayate, and brought them to the Archbishop without touching them.
It took him much effort to get admitted to the Archbishop's houses. When the servants finally announced him to the prelate, he spread out his ayate, which was tied to his shoulders, and the flowers and roses fell to the ground. There was printed on the ayate the Sovereign Queen of Heaven and Mother of God of Guadalupe. Seeing this miracle, the Archbishop began to cry, as did all present. All of this was recounted by Diego de Torres Bullon in detail, and he claimed that Juan Diego himself had told him these things, for he had visited Juan Diego many times in the house adjoining the shrine. There were many other things Diego de Torres Bullon told the witness, which the latter could no longer remember.
To the third question, the witness answered that Diego de Torres Bullon told him the archbishop established a divine cult for the Holy Image without delay, building a church or shrine on the spot that Juan Diego indicated where the Holy Image had appeared. Juan Diego himself told this to Diego de Torres Bullon. The present witness, having gone to the shrine many times, had seen the devotion of many people, among whom many miracles were experienced.
To the fourth question, Don Martín said the ayate or tilma on which the Image of Guadalupe was stamped was the type of cloak that all Indians, including Juan Diego, wore then. It is so rough and loosely woven that it is impossible to print or paint any image, small or large on it. The cloth is of a kind called ixtli, which is taken from maguey and woven by hand.
In answer to the fifth question, the witness again cited Diego de Torres Bullon, saying that Juan Diego was mature in age, fearful of God and conscientious. He frequently went to church, catechism and divine office, setting an example for others. Diego de Torres also knew María Lucía, who had died two or three years before the apparition. He also knew Juan Bernardino, who died in this town, and was buried in the shrine of Guadalupe where his nephew served. He told the witness that Juan Diego died four or five years after Juan Bernardino. He had seen Juan Diego perform great penances, and the latter was regarded as a most holy man in his time.
To the sixth question, the witness answered that the Image of Guadalupe must be miraculous, not only because of the impossibility of painting or printing on the ayate, but also because the various colors have been preserved throughout the sixty years he has seen it. The seventh question was considered answered by his testimony already given.
To the eighth question, he replied that the climate of the shrine is seasonally humid and dry, being on a hill near a river and lake. The winds carry the saline earth, so that it eats even well prepared paintings by the best artists. Thus the Holy Image is of supernatural origin, since its colors are as vivid as they were sixty years ago.
In response to the ninth question, Don Martín solemnly confirmed his testimony which was read back to him. The interpreters signed for him, since he did not know how to write.
Although this witness has no special credentials of his own, his testimony was valued because it came from Diego Torres de Bullon, a well-educated Indian who credibly claimed to have been a contemporary of Juan Diego, and indeed that he heard the story from the mouth of Juan Diego himself. Unlike the case with other witnesses, there is no chronological difficulty here. Don Martín heard the story in his youth, which would have been the late 1590s. This means the elderly Diego de Torres Bullon could have been born in the early 1510s, easily making him a contemporary not only of Juan Diego, but of his wife who died before the apparitions. Accordingly, it is noteworthy that this particular witness specifically cites the year of the apparition as 1531.
The seventh witness at Cuautitlan was D. Juan Xuarez, who was interviewed on January 19. He was a native of the neighborhood of San Sebastian Xala, and he had held several public offices, including that of first alderman (regidor mayor). His parents, named Don Juan Xuarez and María Geronyma, died more than fifty years ago in that town.
The witness estimated that he was over a hundred years old, for he remembered well when the first Don Luis de Velasco was viceroy. Also, he was already a bearded adult when the great eclipse occurred on St. Barnabas' eve. He was also a grown man when they began to drain the lakes around Mexico City. Again we seem to have some confusion about age, either on the part of the witness himself or on the part of the investigators. The last two events do not make the witness a hundred years old. Lake Texcoco began to be drained after 1607, and the first eclipse of any kind that took place on the eve of St. Barnabas' feast after 1500 was the great solar eclipse over Mexico on June 10, 1611. Since Indians had difficulty growing beards, the witness was then at least thirty years old, so he was born around 1580. This means he was in his late eighties at the time of his interview. Again, as with other witnesses, his recollection of the "first" Luis de Velasco has been misinterpreted to mean the one who died in 1564. Rather, he remembers the first of the younger Luis de Velasco's two reigns (1590-95; 1607-1611).
All of Don Juan's testimony comes from what he heard of the apparition from his parents. In particular, his father told him that in the year 1531, when the Archbishop of Mexico was a Franciscan friar with the surname Zumárraga, the Mother of God of Guadalupe appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego, a native and resident of the neighborhood of Tlayacac. She had appeared to him twice to deliver messages to the Archbishop, by which the Holy Image asked him to build her a house or church on the site where she appeared. Juan Diego was not believed, and he was asked to bring signs from the Lady. Both times, the witness' father said, Juan Diego was made fun of by the Archbishop and his servants, and he had heard this from Juan Diego himself.
On the third time, Juan Diego was on his way to Santiago Tlatelulco Doctrina, where the natives of Cuautitlan attended, in order to get a confessor for his uncle Juan Bernardino, who was ill with cocolixtle. In order not to be detained by the Lady, he took a different route from the previous times, yet she nonetheless appeared in his path. He asked the Queen of Heaven not to detain him, so that he could hurry and get a confessor, but she replied that his uncle was already healed. She told him to gather flowers and roses on top of the hill. He found many flowers of all kinds and scents, and gathered them into his tilma or ayate. She then told him to carry them, and not to touch them, and to tell the Archbishop that these flowers are the signs requested on the previous two occasions.
At the house of the Archbishop, the servants detained Juan Diego for more than an hour before admitting him. When he delivered his message about the sign of the flowers, he then opened his tilma, and the roses fell, while imprinted on the ayate was the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, of the same aspect and beauty in which it appears today. The father of the witness was told by Juan Diego that the Archbishop and all present were filled with tears after witnessing the miracle.
Then the bishop began the building (se puso por obra) of the shrine on its present site, and there was a great procession of people from the City as well as the surrounding towns, especially Cuautitlan, where the miracle was publicly proclaimed with instruments and dances. The witness' father had been present at all of this, as Juan Diego was an acquaintance of his. He knew the location of his house and his land, and all his relatives, and that at the time he was the widower of María Lucía, who had died two years before.
Juan Diego returned to his house without knowing if his uncle had died, and there found him healed. Juan Bernardino said a Lady had been with him, shortly after Juan Diego had left, and told him to rise. Juan Diego replied that this was the same Lady who appeared to him three times and told him that his uncle was already healed.
All of this was told to the witness by his father on many occasions. When the witness was fifteen or eighteen years old, he heard the same from many people in the town, including the relatives of Juan Diego. This was so publicly known that every year, the day after the feast of the Mother of God of Guadalupe, the entire town, including the governor and mayors, would go to celebrate the feast of the Virgin and of Juan Diego, asking them to intercede with the Divine Majesty to grant them temporal goods. This had been observed since the apparition, and the witness went to this celebration every year, and up to today he is accustomed to come up with his beeswax, because all the governors took special care in this. (In the baroque period, the annual collection of beeswax for candles was liturgically important. See Rosa Ma Lorenzo, La cera en religiosidad popular. Las Cofradías salmantinas.) Also, the men and women would go weekly to work on the building of the first shrine, and this witness remembers it when he was twelve to fifteen years old.
To the third question, the witness attested that the shrine was built on the site indicated by Juan Diego, as his father told him often. Many people go there for novenas, and many miracles have been worked through the intercession of the Holy Image. The witness has gone to novenas many times for various ailments and has come away cured, and the same has happened to many other natives of the town. He referred the interrogators to the judicial or extrajudicial acts in which these miracles were written, from the time of the apparition and afterward.
To the fourth question, he answered that the tilmas of ancient times, used even today, were of ayate, which is made of maguey fibers woven by hand. There were no looms or wool in the old days, and all the tilmas the witness saw then were so coarse that they could be used to sift earth. It is impossible to imprint or paint on such a loosely woven cloth, nor can it be prepared for painting. From this it is evident beyond doubt that the imprinting of the Holy Image on Juan Diego's tilma is of supernatural origin, since one could not so much as draw a straight line on this material.
To the fifth question, he answered that his father and many others in the town told him that Juan Diego was of mature age and a widower at the time of the apparition. He was a good Christian, fearful of God and conscience, and without scandal. He always walked alone, so that he seemed a hermit, attending Doctrine on all the days of obligation, and going to the Church of Santiago Tlatelulco. He took special care to confess and receive communion. The witness saw a painting of Juan Diego in the old Dormitory of the Church in Cuautitlan, with his uncle Juan Bernardino beside the Most Holy Virgin. On the other side was a lay priest of the Franciscan order, whom he recalled was called Padre Gante. Juan Diego was much venerated, for having been so fortunate to have spoken with the Mother of God.
To the sixth question, Don Juan replied that it is impossible to prepare and imprint such a cloth of ayate, for which reason he did not doubt that the Image on the tilma was a supernatural work. Its colors are as vivid as what the witness saw eighty or ninety years ago, and this preservation is miraculous.
The seventh question was sufficiently answered by his previous replies.
To the eighth question, he replied that the place where the Image is located is very humid, being near a river and a lake. There are many winds from the drying lake, carrying some of the earth from there, which looks like flour from being so salty. This consumes all paintings, removing all colors and facial features (faiciones). The paintings in this town do not last more than thirty or forty years, since it has the same climate as the shrine. A fine painting of the Most Holy Virgin of the Rosary, which the witness bought twenty years ago, now has lost its colors and face from the humid breezes. For this reason, he considers the preservation of the Holy Image to be a known supernatural miracle.
To the ninth question, he affirmed that all he said was well known throughout New Spain. His testimony was read back to him for confirmation, after which he signed it, along with the interpreters, judge and notary. Juan Xuarez was evidently one of the few Indian witnesses who could sign his own name, suggesting a better than average education.
The eighth witness at Cuautitlan was an elderly Indian named Catharina Monica, who was interviewed on January 22. She was a native of that town from the neighborhood of Carnicería, and was the widow of Marcos Moisén, also an Indian. Her parents were Diego Xuarez and María Salomé, both natives of the same neighborhood, and they died over seventy years ago.
She said her age was greater than macuil puali Xiguil, which according to the interpreters meant she was over a hundred years old. Macuil means "five" and puali means "twenty", hence five times twenty years. The age is effectively rounded to the nearest twenty years, based on the Nahuatl number system. She remembered when the river near the shrine of Guadalupe did not yet have a stone bridge, but only some wooden beams (vigas, used in adobe construction) for crossing to the shrine. These and other antiquities persuaded the interrogators that she was indeed probably over a hundred years old, as other elderly people could not recall these facts.
The witness' testimony comes from what she heard from her parents and from an aunt named Martina Salomé. The Mother of God of Guadalupe appeared three times to an Indian named Juan Diego, who was a native of Tlayacac. The first two times she gave messages for the Indian to deliver to the Archbishop, who was of the Franciscan order. She asked that he build her a house or church on the site she appeared. The Indian was not believed, so the archbishop told him to return with signs from the Lady. All this was told to the witness by her aunt Martina, who was a very important and knowledgeable Indian who had known Juan Diego, his wife María Lucía, his uncle Juan Bernardino, and the rest of his relatives.
On the third time, Juan Diego was on his way to the church of Santiago Tlatelulco of the order of San Francisco Doctrina, which is where the natives went to attend Mass and other divine offices. He was going to bring a confessor for his uncle Juan Bernardino, who was very ill with cocolixtli, as the natives called typhus fever (tabardillo). He took a different route to make haste and not be detained by Our Lady, yet she nonetheless appeared in his path. He begged her not to detain him, so he could continue on his errand, but she assured him that his uncle was now healthy. She told Juan Diego to go up and gather flowers of all kinds there. He did cut down flowers and roses, and put them in his tilma or ayate. These were to be brought to the Archbishop as signs.
At the houses of the Archbishop, Juan Diego was detained by the servants for more than an hour and a half. This detail independently corroborates the testimony of Juan Xuarez, who said it was more than an hour. When he finally entered and delivered his message, he opened his tilma to reveal the flowers as signs, and the roses fell to the floor, while the Queen of Heaven remained imprinted on the tilma, just as it appears today. All those present were amazed at the miracle.
The parents and aunt of the witness told her that later the construction of the shrine was begun, on the site indicated by Juan Diego, where the Mother of God had appeared to him. This is the same place it stands today. When the Image was placed in the shrine, there was a great procession that everyone attended. The natives of Juan Diego's town proclaimed the miracle in the plaza with a public festival and many trumpets and drums (atabales). Everyone attended this festival, including the parents and aunt of the witness.
They also told her that Juan Diego's wife Maria Lucia had died two years earlier. When Juan Diego returned to his house, he found his uncle Juan Bernardino cured. The uncle explained that on the same day that Juan Diego left, a Lady came to see him and told him to rise. Juan Diego replied that this was the same Lady who had spoken to him three times.
The witness heard this not only from her relatives, but from all the Indians of the town. She was more than fifteen years old at the time, and this was public and well known, and every year (Catharina Monica having witnessed this herself many times) the natives of this town went to the shrine a day after the feast of the Most Holy Virgin. They brought much beeswax and roses, and asked Juan Diego to intercede with the Mother of God for them. All the natives - including the parents and aunt of the witness - went to the shrine weekly to sweep and incense it. Many times Catharina Monica went to the shrine, from the age of fifteen onward, and saw the Image in exactly the same form as it appears today.
To the third question, Catharina Monica answered that, according to her parents and aunt, a divine cult of the Holy Image was established after the apparition, and it was venerated in its shrine, where many people have gone for novenas, including the witness. When she saw it thirty, forty or fifty years ago, as well as three or four years ago, it always looked the same, without losing any of its colors. Many miracles have been experienced, which are recorded in judicial or extrajudicial acts.
To the fourth question, she answered that the covering used by Indians at that time and even today were tilmas of ayate, of the kind that is taken from maguey threads. They are woven by hand, not loom. They are sufficiently coarse and loosely woven that they can be used to sift dirt, which the witness has done many times. They are so rough and coarse that it is impossible to prepare them for painting any image. For this reason, the Holy Image on Juan Diego's tilma must be a supernatural work. On the tilmas of old, which the witness saw, it was not possible even to draw a straight line.
To the fifth question, she answered that Juan Diego was of mature age at the time of the apparition, and the widower of Maria Lucia. He was a good Christian, fearful of God and conscience, without any scandal in his life. He seemed like a hermit the way he lived, and went to the church at Tlatelulco and to Doctrine on all days of obligation. The witness heard it said that there was a painting in the old dormitory of the Church in Cuautitlan which depicted Juan Diego and his uncle on one side of the Most Holy Virgin, and on the other a lay father of the Franciscan order, who was called Padre Gante. It seems likely that the interrogators inquired about this painting, in light of Juan Xuarez's testimony.
To the sixth question, she answered that the holy image must be miraculous, since it is impossible to imprint upon such a cloth or prepare it for painting. She saw it more than eighty-five years ago, and it looked the same when she saw it three or four years ago.
The seventh question was considered answered by her previous testimony.
To the eighth question, she answered she had heard it said that the territory is very humid, because it is near lakes and a river, and the salty earth is lifted by winds, causing colors to be consumed. For this reason, the preservation of the Image is miraculous.
The witness confirmed her testimony as it was read back to her, and the officials signed on her behalf, since she did not know how to write.
The witnesses at Cuautitlan all confirm the traditional apparition narrative, and enhance the credibility of their testimony by offering additional facts not found in the published accounts nor mentioned in the questionnaire. Most of the witnesses learned the apparition story from trusted elders who were contemporaries of Juan Diego, and had personally witnessed the early devotions at the shrine in the late sixteenth century.
From these testimonies we can gather some probable facts. First, the traditional apparition narrative was widely known in Cuautitlán in the late sixteenth century. To deny this would require all eight of the witnesses to be blatant liars. The mental confusion that is often characteristic of the elderly would not suffice for all of them to independently invent out of whole cloth detailed recollections of what their elders had told them, complete with corroborating factual details. If anything, senility tends to be accompanied by a sharper recollection of the remote past, with some chronological confusion. Recognizing that senility alone cannot account for such a degree of fabrication, the anti-apparitionist historian Icazbalceta did not hesitate to affirm that all the Indian witnesses were liars. It is true that it was common for Indians to give false juridical testimony in those days, but there was usually a motive for doing so. Here there could be no motive except perhaps to magnify the miracle as well as the importance of oneself or one's town. If the witnesses were so motivated, it is hardly explicable that they frequently admitted they could not recall certain facts, even those that were mentioned in the questionnaire (i.e., the name of the archbishop). The hypothesis that they are all liars is contradicted not only by their solid reputation by family background or public office, but also by the fact that they independently confirmed non-canonical facts offered by other witnesses.
Now, while it is indubitable to any fair-minded person that the witnesses were not fabricating their testimony, it does not necessarily follow that those who taught them were equally trustworthy. These long deceased putative witnesses could have been guilty of exaggeration or error on a number of points. Still, it is significant that many people throughout Cuautitlan in the late sixteenth century taught the story of Juan Diego as fact to their grown children. This was not a mere fable or bedtime story, but something that was really believed to be true.
In particular, there can be no reasonable doubt, giving the testimonies their due weight, that Juan Diego was a real historical individual. The witnesses independently offer the detail that he was from the neighborhood of Tlayacac, and give descriptions of his personality and habits. Some even saw the original house adjoining the shrine in which he had lived, and Marcos Pacheco indicates that his death there was documented. The local church had kept a portrait of Juan Diego and his uncle, depicting them as facing the Blessed Virgin. More strikingly, respected elders known to the witnesses claimed to have spoken to Juan Diego himself. Even if such claims exaggerated their familiarity with the seer, they would hardly be made if it were not publicly known at the time that he was a real person who lived not long ago. If we were to deny Juan Diego historical reality, we should also, to be consistent, deny virtually all the individuals named in pre-Columbian Aztec history, whom we know only through hearsay.
All the witnesses confirm the version of the narrative made famous by P. Sánchez, though none of them were literate and so could not have been familiar with the published accounts. Several witnesses say the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego three times, omitting his visit to Tepeyac immediately after his second rebuff by the archbishop. Doña Juana de la Concepcion does mention this additional visit, having been exposed to the more detailed history collected by her father.
Not all could remember the name of the Archbishop, but most knew that he was Franciscan (a fact not mentioned in the questionnaire). This means that Juan de Zumárraga had to have been the prelate intended, in which case the apparition could have occurred no later than the winter of 1547-48. In many places, the testimony of the deceased elders suggests a familiarity with the events of the apparition (and of Juan Diego's wife Maria Lucia, who died two years earlier) that seems incompatible with a dating of 1531. We should remain open, then, to the possibility that the apparition occurred as recently as the 1540s, a supposition that might account for Zumárraga's apparent silence about Guadalupe.
The testimony about the shrine is especially compelling, since here the witnesses report what they themselves saw. They independently recall that the Indians went there weekly to work on the shrine's construction, and to sweep and incense it, as per ancient custom. Considering that the shrine was nothing more than a simple adobe house containing the Guadalupan image, it is clear that devotion to that Image long antedated the publication of Sánchez's work. All the witnesses agree that numerous miracles were worked by the Image, some of which were written down. Notably, there was an annual public festival commemorating the apparition and honoring Juan Diego, to whom the Indians prayed for intercession. (This was before the cult of non-canonized saints was suppressed.)
There is a clear consensus among the witnesses about the composition of tilmas in Juan Diego's time. There were no looms or wool among the Indians back then, so cloaks were made of hand-woven maguey fibers (of a type called ixtli, according to D. Pablo Xuarez). The weave was sufficiently loose that this type of cloth was used to sift dirt, and painting on it was utterly impossible. It should be noted that the witnesses assume the Image to be printed on Juan Diego's tilma, without having inspected the cloth personally.
The recorded answers to the fifth question mostly follow the formulaic wording of the Interrogatorio, from which we gather that the Indians simply affirmed what was asked. Still, they offer some additional details, such as Juan Diego's punctual religious observances and his humble reclusiveness. It is clear from all the testimony that he was considered to be a morally exemplary man, and that his favor before the Virgin greatly enhanced this esteem.
The witnesses all testify that the Image has the same features and vivid colors now as when they first saw it many decades ago. They regard this state of preservation as miraculous, in view of the climate's saline and humid air, which devours the colors of even well prepared paintings, so that nothing lasts more than thirty or forty years.
In sum, the testimony gathered at Cuautitlan solidifies the historical grounds of the apparition narrative from the indigenous perspective, so we can at least be certain that the Indians had always held that Juan Diego really did see the Blessed Virgin, and that her Image was miraculously imprinted on his tilma. It remains to be seen, however, if this faith was always shared by the Spanish in the city of Mexico, and if there is any further evidence that Bishop Zumárraga really did witness the miracle and sanction the Guadalupan cult.
Continue to Part VII
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