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Historiography of the Apparition of Guadalupe

Daniel J. Castellano (2011-12)

Part IX

Sixteenth-Century Fragments

Testament of Bartolomé López (1537)
Letter of María Gómez (1539)
Testimony of Francisco Cervantes de Salazar (1554)
Testament of Cuauhtitlán (1559)
Testament of Francisco Verdugo Quetzalmamalitzin (1563)
Annals of Juan Bautista (1564-1569)
Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1560-1568)
P. Antonio Freyre (1570)
Fray Diego de Santa María (1574-1575)
Viceroy Martín Enriquez de Almanza (1575)
Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1575-1577, 1585)
Miles Philips (1582)
Antonio de Ciudad Real (1585)
Juan Suárez de Peralta (c. 1589)
Synthesis of Evidence

In order to help resolve the historical question of the origin of the Guadalupe devotion, we will have to examine the available textual fragments from the sixteenth century referring to Guadalupe. For now, we will only examine those fragments that are uncontroversially dated to the sixteenth century. With each of these pieces of evidence, we must consider: (1) if the citation really does refer to Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac, rather than Extremadura; and (2) if there is any indication of a belief in (2a) miracles worked by the Image, (2b) an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, or (2c) a miraculous origin of the Image. Due to the cursory nature of these testimonies, we will frequently be able to hazard little more than a probable estimate. We will also be attentive to issues of chronology, and try to determine the significance of the years 1531 and 1555 in Guadalupan lore.

Testament of Bartolomé López (1537)

The oldest datable written mention of Guadalupe in Mexico is the testament of the conquistador Bartolomé López, finalized on November 15, 1537 at Villa de Colima (in the valley of Tecomán, near the west coast of southern Mexico). López willed that a hundred masses should be said for his soul "to Our Lady of Guadalupe," and in another part he wills that a hundred masses should be said for his soul "in the house of Our Lady of Guadalupe." It is not clear if this is an accidental repetition, or two distinct intentions. If either or both of these mentions refers to a Guadalupan devotion at Tepeyac, this would be remarkable evidence of the extent of the cult, as López lived about 600 kilometers away from the capital. If both mentions refer to Guadalupe in Extremadura, it would seem that López made an impossible request, as there was no procurador in Mexico who could collect alms on behalf of that sanctuary before 1560. [Fidel de Jesús Chavet, "Las apariciones guadalupanas del Tepeyac" in Centro de Estudios Guadalupanos, A.C., Primer encuentro nacional guadalupano, 7 y 8 de septiembre de 1976, México, Editorial Jus, 1978, pp. 25-48.]

Letter of María Gómez (1539)

On January 18, 1539, María Gómez of Villa de Colima presented to the magistrate (alcalde ordinario) Juan Pinzón an account of her execution of the will of her late husband Juan Pérez. The document of this account includes two payments to "the House of Our Lady of Guadalupe," both of which are said to have had associated letters of payment. The two mentions read: "...paid to the House of Our Lady of Guadalupe twenty-five pesos..."; "...paid to the House of Our Lady of Guadalupe and to its procurador in his name 101 pesos...". Here we find recorded not a mere wish or intention, but actual transactions that took place. Since, as noted above, there was no procurador in Mexico for the sanctuary of Guadalupe in Extremadura, it is not credible that these payments, especially the latter, were made to the Spanish shrine of Guadalupe.

We might consider the possibility that Sra. Gómez was deceived by an impostor who pretended to represent the shrine in Extremadura. Such a fraud was allegedly perpetrated in Mexico City in the early 1560s (according to Fray Diego de Santa María, we shall see), so we could have an earlier instance here. Yet it is hardly credible that the magistrate would accept such a claim at a time when there were no legitimate procurators for the estremeño sanctuary in New Spain. It seems likely, then, that a Mexican Guadalupe is intended, in which case the testament of Bartolomé López likely also refers to a sanctuary in Mexico.

Although there might have been a widespread devotion to a Mexican Guadalupe in the late 1530s, this does not mean the shrine enjoyed any official ecclesiastical status. The little adobe hermitage at Tepeyac is not mentioned in any early church documents, and even as late as 1570, the visitador D. Juan de Ovando did not mention Guadalupe among the numerous churches in the archdiocese. We already know that the cult of Guadalupe was definitely established and approved by the archbishop in 1556, so the building's unofficial ecclesiastical status was not inconsistent with the existence of a widespread, highly esteemed cult. This is unsurprising, as we have seen that sixteenth century Spain was full of lay devotions to unofficial saints and shrines.

Still, María Gómez's mention of a procurator begs the question of who collected alms on behalf of the shrine. Usually this was done by monks, and in early New Spain, all monks were Franciscans. In all likelihood, then, the Franciscans were collecting alms throughout Mexico on behalf of the shrine at Tepeyac. In the testimony of 1556, we already saw a hint that the Franciscans at Tlatelolco admitted responsibility for helping to establish the shrine, and arguably still had a right to receive its alms. If this is truly the case, the local Franciscans would have had a complicated relationship with the devotion, as several of their members strenuously opposed its apparently idolatrous aspects.

Testimony of Francisco Cervantes de Salazar (1554)

The earliest unambiguous written mention of the shrine at Tepeyac was made by Francisco Cervantes de Salazar in his 1554 description of Mexico City and its surroundings. He describes the view from the hill of Chapultepec, which includes "great Indian cities such as Tetzcoco, Tlacopan, Tepeaquilla, Azcapotzalco... and many others. Of these [cities] are those whitened churches (iglesias blanqueadas, from which the view of Mexico is enjoyed."

Tepeaquilla, we have seen from the 1556 testimony, was a Spanish name for Tepeyac. It is here listed among various Indian cities, though there was no habitation on Tepeyac except for the shrine. Evidently, the presence of the shrine alone sufficed to elevate Tepeyac to the status of a grande ciudad de indios. This is not surprising, considering the large number of pilgrims that flocked there. Salazar gives implicit testimony that the Guadalupan shrine was frequented by many people at least a year before 1555. He explicitly testifies that there was a white church building on the site. No other details are given, which is only to be expected since a discussion of the devotion would be tangential to his purpose of describing the panorama.

The above testimonies are all from Spaniards; there are no indigenous documents about Guadalupe that can be uncontroversially dated before 1555. This is because the extant Indian annals from the sixteenth century also continued well into the seventeenth century, so it is difficult to prove that references to Guadalupe were not inserted much later. We reserve these disputed codices for later discussion. For now, we will examine texts that are undoubtedly from the second half of the sixteenth century.

Testament of Cuauhtitlán (1559)

One important Nahuatl text, now preserved only in authenticated copies, is the testament of an indigenous woman in Cuauhtitlan dated March 11, 1559. The woman's name is not clearly indicated, though scholars have named her variously as Gregoria Morales, Gregoria María, Juana Martín or Juana Morales, some of these names being derived from the testament's mention that she was married to Ventura Morales and the daughter of Juan García Martín. The document is significant to Guadalupan studies because it contains the earliest definitely dated mention of Juan Diego and the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac.

A copy of the Nahuatl text and Spanish translation is included in the Boturini collection at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. [Doc. 317, viewable at http://www.amoxcalli.org.mx/facsimilar.php?id=317] According to the introduction by the copyist, identified by Eugène Boban (Document pour servir à l'Histoire du Mexique, Paris, 1891, vol. 1, p. 327; vol. 2, p. 462) as Antonio de León y Gama (1735-1802), the original document on maguey paper was found in the Real Universidad de Mexico, indexed in the Boturini collection's eighth inventory, number 47. He says it is the same document cited by Boturini in his Idea de una nueva historia general de la America Septentrional (Madrid, 1746, foja 90, n. 4). Appended to the original was a translation made by D. Carlos de Tapia [y Centeno], by order of D. Joseph Julian Ramirez. Both men were professors of the Real Universidad.

The copyist notes that the original was so old, torn and faded that it was impossible to make out much of what was written. The same must have been true at the time the translation was made (late 18th century), for it has many lacunae where the Nahuatl was unreadable. Accordingly, the copyist frequently inserts ellipsis in his transcription of the Nahuatl and of the Spanish. We do not, then, have the complete text, and without the original document before us, it is impossible to say how much has been omitted.

As it is presented in the Boturini-Aubin collection, the first six pages of writing are in the hand of Antonio de Gama y León. This consists of the aforementioned introduction, and then a transcription of the Nahuatl text and of its Spanish translation. On the seventh page with writing, there begins a different hand, which is a translation of a maguey manuscript of the Nican mopohua, made by the same D. Carlos de Tapia y Zenteno, followed by a word for word translation of Lasso de la Vega's 1649 version. (This last is interesting because it repeatedly omits the name Juan de Zumárraga from the Nahuatl side of the synoptic translation.) Both documents are taken from the University's Boturini collection, eighth inventory, numbers 7 and 8. Inserted in the middle of the word-for-word translation of the Nican mopohua is a single page (numbered 31 in this notebook) with the last portion of the Spanish translation of the Gregoria María/Morales testament, in a hand that is not Gama's nor that of the Nican mopohua copyist. It is possible that this is a remnant of Tapia's original translation.

There are two other old copies of the 1559 testament, with only slight textual variation from the Antonio de Gama copy in Paris. One of these is kept in the Basilica of Guadalupe (Box 94, exhibit 1, in History branch). This copy was extracted from the archive of the Real Universidad by D. José Patricio Fernandez de Uribe (1742-1796) for use in his sermon on December 14, 1777 (published in 1801). Another copy is in New York Public Library, among the Monumentos guadalupanos collection of José Fernando Ramírez. This copy includes a Spanish translation made by Faustino Chimalpopoca Galicia, who worked with Ramirez.

The extant copies are all of well-documented provenance and consistent with each other, so there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the 1559 testament. The Jesuit historian Luis Medina Ascencio (1910-1993) said that the original testament was in the archive of the ecclesiastical cabildo of the city of Puebla, but no subsequent scholar has investigated this claim. We will therefore follow the Paris copy made by Antonio de Gama, unless otherwise specified. Most of the textual variants, for our purposes, are not significant.

The testator says her house was left to her by her father Juan García and her mother María Martina. She is a native of the neighborhood of "Sn Joseph Millo," that is, San José Millar, in San Buenaventura Cuauhtitlan. Also from that neighborhood are Doña Inés Martina, consort of Ventura Morales, and the testator's younger brother Gregorio Martin. The Spanish translation says Gregorio Martín is the husband of Luisa Maria, though this is not in the Nahuatl of the Paris copy. Luisa Maria is found in the Nahuatl of the New York copy, however, proving that the translation is accurate. The testator says that all these people are dead, and only she remains, as daughter of her father Juan Martín. Her "governor" (tlacatoca) Juan Martín and all her children were dead, except for Francisco Martín, who might still be alive.

The translation of the above is not straightforward, which accounts for the confusion over the testator's likely name. Some think that the testator is the wife of Ventura Morales, which is why her last name is sometimes taken to be Morales. The honorary father or governor of her children, Juan Martín, is sometimes taken to be the name of her father. The fact is we do not know what the testator's name was, and Boturini was wise not to propose one.

There is a gap in the text, followed by this remarkable testimony about her hometown:

...here [in the neighborhood of San José Millan in Cuauhtitlan] grew up the young man Juan Diegotzin; afterwords he saw fit to go get married there in Santa Cruz Tlacpac, next to San Pedro: he married the maiden, named Malintzin, who shortly died; thus Juan Diego was alone. .... after he left, through her revered mediation her miracle was worked, there on Tepeyac next to it [the hill] where the precious lady holy Mary appeared, whose image we see there in Guadalupe, which is our venerable possession in our town of Cuauhtitlán.

The testator says that she has the same hometown as Juan Diego, to whom the Blessed Virgin appeared on Tepeyac. The image of this apparition is what is revered at Guadalupe, and so this Image may be considered the proud possession of Cuautitlán.

She says offers biographical detail about Juan Diego, saying he was raised in her neighborhood of San José Millan. This is just south of the main town of Cuautitlán, near Tultitlán, where Juan Bernardino is traditionally held to have lived. This would explain why Juan Bernardino lived in that area even though Juan Diego later lived (according to the witnesses of 1666) in the neighborhood of Tlayacac, just west of central Cuautitlán. (Tlayacac means "nose of the hill," that is, the end of the hill.) The testator explains that Juan Diego originally left his hometown in order to get married in Tlacpac, which is about 75 km to the northeast of Cuautitlan, now part of the modern municipality of Acaxochitlán. It is indeed near San Pedro as she claims. She also gives the indigenous name of Juan Diego's wife as Malintzin, from which the later known name of María Lucía could be credibly derived. She also confirms later testimony that Juan Diego's marriage was brief, and he was a widower at the time of the apparition.

The testator does not specify exactly what was the miracle performed by Our Lady on Tepeyac, but she definitely indicates that the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan Diego. Most strikingly, she draws a clear link between the Image revered at Guadalupe and the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to a native of Cuautitlan. Her declaration that the Image in some sense belongs to Cuautitlan has been taken literally by some commentators, who suggest that a copy of the Image was brought to Cuautitlán. The text does not clearly support such a supposition. The original Image was certainly revered at Tepeyac in 1556, and it is extremely unlikely that the people of Mexico City would have suffered it to be moved much further north. (Recall that Tepeyac was much closer to Mexico City than to Cuautitlan.) If a copy was made, we should not be surprised if this was painted by the illustrious Marcos, which might account for Bustamante's attribution of the original to that painter. At any rate, the Image is understood to be at least a commemoration of the Blessed Virgin's appearance to Juan Diego at Tepeyac.

With this testimony from 1559, it is no longer plausible (if it ever was) to deny that Juan Diego was a real historical figure. What is more, we have evidence that the story of the apparition was known in Cuautitlan at that time, and that the Image was regarded as an especially holy icon. This does not strictly prove that it was believed that the Image was miraculously imprinted, but it does abolish the contention that the basic Juan Diego apparition narrative was a romance of later invention.

As stated previously, the text as we now have it is incomplete, as the paper was already in a state of decay by the late eighteenth century. Fortunately, Boturini noted some details from the testament that are not preserved in our extant copies. He says the testament was written by a female relative (parienta of Juan Diego, both in his Catalog (1736-1743) and in his Idea de una nueva historia general (1746). The text preserved in our copies only says the testator was from the same neighborhood as Juan Diego, not that she was related to him. It is possible that the lacuna before the discourse on Juan Diego once contained this fact, which would account for an otherwise strange digression.

In case there is any doubt that Boturini's Testamento de una parienta de Juan Diego is in fact the same document as the Cuauhtitlan testament of 1559, Boturini quotes the expression, To axcàtzin, which he interprets as "that the Virgin is of us the Indians." [Idea de una nueva historia general (1746), p.158.] Indeed, we find in our extant copies the term toaxcatzin, which means "belongs to us". The context is where she says the Image of Guadalupe belongs to those of Cuauhtitlan, which is consistent with Boturini's extended explanation. There is no question, then, that Boturini is quoting from the same document, as is confirmed by the fact that every early commentator, translator and copyist assigned the 1559 testament to the Boturini collection.

Now that we know Boturini is quoting from the 1559 testament of "Gregoria Martín," his other citations may also be attributed the same date. His lengthiest quotation of the Nahuatl is below:

Sapa omonextìtzino itlazocihuapìlli Santa María, inoque cayotilique in itlazoteopìxque Guadalope, esto es, En Sábado se apareció la muy amada Señora Santa María, y se avisò dello al querido Párroco de Guadalupe [Idea de una nueva historia general de la America Septentrional, pp. 157-8.]

Interpreting sapa as a Nahuatlization of sábado, Boturini finds testimony that the Virgin appeared on a Saturday. While there is no grounds for questioning the authenticity of the Nahuatl, we may doubt Boturini's interpretive translation. He thinks the last part means that the parish priest of Guadalupe was notified (of the apparition). Yet teopixque is plural, so tlazoteopixque means "esteemed priests". Similarly, the verb inoque cayotilique is plural, and it may be a reverential form of callotia (ll and y are pronounced similarly in Spanish, possibly resulting in a transliteration error), which means to provide lodging. Thus a likely translation is that offered by Xavier Noguez: "she was lodged in Guadalupe by the reverend priests". This would refer to the original translation of the Image to its shrine.

As a further clarification, Agustín de la Rosa suggested that the possessive particle i preceding tlazoteopixque implies that the "beloved priest" was beloved of Our Lady. [Defensa de la aparición de Ntra. Sra. de Guadalupe (Guadalajara, 1896), pp. 32-33.]

This testimony about the apparition does not explicitly declare that the Image was miraculously painted. It may have "appeared" providentially, as occurred with other holy images in Spain, and then was placed in its shrine to be venerated. Still, this testimony is compatible with the traditional narrative, especially in its assertion that the "priests" (which in Nahuatl could equally refer to friars) translated the Image to its shrine on Tepeyac. This act would make more sense if the Image was originally not on the hill, as the traditional narrative attests.

Boturini also says that the will attests to the chastity of Juan Diego in his marriage to María Luisa [sic]. The only words he directly quotes are omomiquilli in Ychpòchtli, which he interprets as "she died a virgin." The translation here is unambiguous: omomiquilli means "(she) died," and "Ichpuchtli" is the name of the Aztec goddess of marriage, used commonly as a term for maiden or virgin (including the Virgin Mary - see Louise Burkhart: Before Guadalupe: the Virgin Mary in early colonial Nahuatl literature). Since we have already established that Boturini is quoting from the 1559 testament, this constitutes evidence that the chastity of Juan Diego and his wife was already well known in the mid-sixteenth century. If the testator is in fact a relative of Juan Diego, she would be well positioned to know the truth of this tradition.

Archbishop Lorenzana also described the testament (which he had seen and ordered translated) in extant correspondence [published in the Cartas de Hernan Cortés], and calls it:

...the original of Juana Martín, Indian, relative of the Indian V. Juan Diego, written on paper of metl or maguey in the Nahuatl or Mexican language, executed in the place S. José de las Casas Tejapa, before the public scrivener Morales: it leaves some lands in the partido of Cuautitlán to Our Lady, and narrates that Juan Diego was raised in S. José Millan, that he was married with Malintzin or María: it is not to be taken too literally since the year has been corrected (no se pone al pié de la letra por estar enemendado el año). [Lorenzana's notes (1776) on Gobierno Politico de Nueva España by D. Fernando Cortés, in Historia de Méjico, rev. Manuel del Mar (New York: White Gallaher & White, 1828) p.41.]

Lorenzana is clearly discussing the same testament that is extant, though there is the usual confusion about how to deduce the testator's name, here guessed to be Juana Martín (rather than Gregoria María, as in Gama y León's preface to his copy). Strikingly, the archbishop expressly states that the testator is a relative of Juan Diego, though our extant copies make no such claim. Lorenzana must have been following Boturini's attribution, further confirming that this testament is indeed from the Boturini collection.

A scruple may be raised about the archbishop's statement that the year had been emended in the original, possibly calling into doubt the dating of 1559. However, with the rediscovery of the three copies in Paris, New York, and Mexico, this issue can be decisively resolved. The original text read: "Saturday, 11 March of 159," and someone inserted an extra 5 to make the year 1559. There is little reason to doubt that this interpolation was correct, since March 11 did not fall on a Saturday for any other year ending in 9 in the sixteenth century from 1539 onward, nor in 1659. 1595 is possible only on the improbable assumption that the original writer would omit the last digit of the current year. Though he regarded its exact date as uncertain, Lorenzana nonetheless referred to the testament's "antiquity and proximity to the apparition," in combination with another testament by D. Estevan Tomelin [sic] from 1575, so he certainly thought the ancient paper and writing dated from around that time.

Testament of Francisco Verdugo Quetzalmamalitzin (1563)

One of the more famous sixteenth-century Guadalupan documents is the testament of the cacique D. Francisco Verdugo Quetzalmamalitzin. This name should be familiar to us, as he is the protagonist of the last miracle story in Lasso de la Vega's version of the Nican motecpana. According to Lasso, Don Francisco turned to Our Lady of Guadalupe for mercy when his town of Teotihuacán was destroyed for rebelling against the viceroy in 1558. The viceroy then pardoned the town, and reversed his decision to take away the Franciscans. Don Francisco entrusted his soul to Our Lady of Guadalupe when he died on March 2, 1563 [sic].

The testament of Don Francisco is dated April 2, 1563, and the original is still extant in the Mexican national archive. We have not only the Nahuatl text, but also a Spanish translation ordered by the testator himself. The will confirms that the cacique did indeed entrust his soul to Our Lady, that she may be his advocate before her Son the Redeemer. He ordered that upon his death an alm of four pesos should be given to Our Lady of Guadalupe, so that the priest there will say masses. He also ordered that an offering of six pesos be given to Our Lady in the ospital mexico. This was probably the hospital founded and endowed by Cortés in 1524, now known as the Hospital de Jesús, the oldest hospital in America. It was then known as the Hospital de la Inmaculada Concepción de Nuestra Señora del Patronato del Marqués del Valle, and was the subject of Sigüenza's Piedad heroyca praising the charitable and pious deeds of Cortés.

This testament certainly establishes that there existed a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the mid-sixteenth century among the Indians, but it contributes nothing to our knowledge of the origin of the shrine and its cult. It is perhaps noteworthy that Don Francisco also donated to the Hospital of the Immaculate Conception, given that that appears to be the religious theme of the Image of Guadalupe.

Annals of Juan Bautista (1564-1569)

Another important document is the diary or annals of Juan Bautista, an Indian who lived in the barrio of San Juan Tenochtitlán. These annals are not a personal journal, but rather a year by year account of public events that the writer felt were significant. It is not clear exactly when Juan Bautista began his journal, though the list of years goes back to 1519. The earliest noted fact is the arrival of Juan de Zumárraga in 1528. Very few facts are listed until 1564. From 1564 to 1569 there are many entries, suggesting that this may have been when he actually started his annals. Afterwards, there are few entries, with the last being in 1582.

We have mentioned the Anales de Juan Bautista previously for its description of the work of the Indian painter Marcos on the altarpiece of San José de los Naturales (1564-65). He also makes three mentions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but he never links this devotion to Marcos, which would be a strange omission if it were known that Marcos painted the famous icon.

The first mention of Guadalupe is in 1555: "In this year of 1555 was when Holy Mary of Guadalupe saw fit to appear there on Tepeyac." This entry was probably written several years later. It immediately follows a mention of the apostasy of the Indian Juan Teton of Michaloyan, which took place in 1558. Evidently, Juan Bautista saw the Guadalupan devotion as a counterpoint to those Indians who lapsed into paganism. It is fair to say he had a positive view of the devotion, in which case he did not intend to disparage the cult by dating its origin in 1555. Since he lived in Mexico City, he may not have been aware of the apparition story, or even of the devotion, before 1555, when Guadalupan fervor swept over the capital.

It is not at all clear what Juan Bautista meant when he said the Virgin of Guadalupe "appeared" at Tepeyac. This could refer to a personal apparition, or to the providential or miraculous appearance of the icon, or to when the city came to know about the cult. We cannot say anything definitive other than that, for Juan Bautista at least, the history of Guadalupe effectively began in 1555.

The second mention of Guadalupe is incidental. In 1565, an Indian of Santa Isabel Tola named Miguel received the punishment or penance of having to work for two months in Tepeyac "in the service of holy Mary of Guadalupe". This only confirms the importance of the cult, but tells us nothing further of its origin.

More interesting is the mention in 1566 of a great festival with traditional dances held by Alonso de Villaseca on September 15 in the village of Guadalupe. The populated area surrounding the shrine was certified as a town in 1563, undoubtedly as a result of the mass pilgrimages and devotions to the Image. Villaseca, a prominent patron of the arts donated to the shrine a silver statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, almost of natural height. This statue will be mentioned again by later witnesses.

For the year 1531, Juan Bautista mentions only the arrival of the president of the second audiencia and the erection of a cross on the patio of the convent of San Francisco de Mexico. This event may explain the significance of a cross found in some Aztec codices for the year 1531. Apparently, Juan Bautista never associated the year 1531 with Guadalupe, but rather for him the devotion began in 1555.

Juan Bautista's testimony is significant primarily for its dating of the "appearance" of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1555 rather than 1531. This is consistent with other testimonies from the 1556 Información, which suggest that the devotion had become popular only very recently. The recent certification of the Villa de Guadalupe as a town (1563) may imply that there was much less activity at the shrine before the mid-1550s. This does not mean, however, that the devotion was utterly non-existent before 1555. We have already seen testaments from the 1530s giving probable evidence that there was geographically widespread veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at least among the Spanish. These Spaniards, however, show no knowledge of the apparition narrative. Some Indians of Cuauhtitlán, by contrast, knew of Juan Diego and the apparition from a very early date. Yet Indians in the capital did not become adherents of the devotion until it became popular among the leading Spanish women in that city. It seems that knowledge of Guadalupe varied greatly by time and place in the mid-sixteenth century.

Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1560-1568)

The conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo mentions Guadalupe in his famous account of the history of the Conquest. This was written when he was living in Guatemala from 1560 to 1568, so his Guadalupan recollections should be dated no later than 1560, which is before the Villa de Guadalupe and the silver statue of the Virgin were created.

First, in Chapter CL, Díaz del Castillo says that Cortés ordered Gonzalo de Sandoval to block an avenue (calzada)...

...que va desde México a un pueblo, que se dize Tepeaquilla, adonde aora llaman Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, donde haze, y ha hecho muchos y admirables milagros.

...that runs from Mexico to a town that is called Tepeaquilla, where they now call Our Lady of Guadalupe, where she does and has done many admirable miracles. [Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (Madrid, 1632), 141v.]

This military account is concerned only with the avenue or calzada de Tepeaquilla, not with the town. Tepeyac (or Tepeyacac as the Indians originally pronounced it) was called Tepeaquilla ("little Tepeyac") by the Spaniards to distinguish it from "great Tepeyac" (Tepeaca) in the valley of Puebla. Although there is no mention of Tepeaquilla or Tepeaca in Cortés' war map of 1521-24, the name Tepeaquilla is well documented from 1528 onward.

In various documents, the cabildo of Mexico granted licenses for Spaniards to raise cattle and plant vines and trees in the lands near Tepeaquilla. On October 16, 1528, for example, the Cabildo authorized two gentlemen to plant vines and trees in a former garden of Montezuma (called Yelcóytl), just outside the "city" (ciudad)of Tepeaquilla, and also to raise their cattle near there. It was specified that they had to compensate any lord or native who might have had a right to any of that land. On October 30, another gentleman was given a piece of land near the calzada de Tepeaquilla to plant trees, grow vines, and raise cattle.

The characterization of Tepeaquilla as a "city" does not imply a large urban concentration, but rather the high social status of the landholders there. The emperor Montezuma and other Mexican nobility had owned lands and gardens there, along with the labor of Indians who worked the fields. The Spanish legally recognized the patrimony of these Indian lords, but these patrimonial rights were effectively undermined by the Cabildo's concessions to Spanish gentry. From 1531 to the 1560s, the Indian officials of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco repeatedly petitioned the Spanish government to stop giving away the lands of local nobility to Spaniards, or even to other Indians. [R. Martinez Baracs, "De Tepeaquilla a Tepeaca, 1528-1555," Andes (Salta, Argentina, 2006), n. 17.]

Over time, the landscape changed, and the area was full of Spanish vines, trees and cattle. It is perhaps of no small significance, we shall later see, that the upsurge in Guadalupan devotion around 1555 was linked to the miraculous healing of a cattle rancher. As more Spanish gentlemen lived near Tepeyac, they grew aware of the shrine's cult, and only when one of their number was miraculously healed did the Spanish nobility in the capital take interest.

Before the 1550s, Tepeaquilla was not anything we would recognize as a city, nor even much of a town. It was primarily a collection of noble landholdings. The Indians referred to it as an altépetl a standard term for a local grouping of people, which literally meant a hill with water. Tepeaquilla was conceived and valued primarily for its natural resources, not for any urban organization. By the 1550s, however, it appears to have grown in significance, as some maps refer to it as Tepeaca, no longer diminutive.

In Chapter CCX of his history, Díaz del Castillo boasts of the numerous churches, monasteries and hospitals in Mexico, more than he can name. The first that he singles out for praise is:

...la santa Casa de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, que esté en lo de Tepeaquilla, donde solia estar assentado el Real de Gonçalo de Sandoval, quando ganamos a Mexico: y miren los santos milagros que ha hecho, y haze de cada dia, y demosle muchas gracias a Dios, y a la bendita Madre Nuestra Señora por ello, que nos dió gracia, y ayuda, que ganassemos ellas tierras, donde ay tanta Christianidad.

...the holy House of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is in Tepeaquilla, where the Royal Gonzalo de Sandoval was situated when we won Mexico: and behold the holy miracles she has worked, and works each day, and we give many thanks to God, and to the Blessed Mother Our Lady for it, that [she] gave us grace and help, that we won these lands, where there is so much Christianity. [Historia verdadera de la conquista, op. cit., 250r. This part was written in 1568.]

Diaz del Castillo does not imply that the church is of recent construction. The context is that he is contrasting the splendor and piety of Mexico City with the civil wars and strife that have plagued other parts of America. He singles out the shrine of Guadalupe as especially praiseworthy in this regard, but tells us nothing as to when it was established.

P. Antonio Freyre (1570)

On January 10, 1570, the priest Antonio Freyre wrote a report to Archbishop Montúfar about the status of the cult in Tepeyac. P. Freyre was responsible for the chapel of Guadalupe as well as the ministry of Indians who worked the surrounding lands and attended weekly Mass (held Saturday and Sunday) and doctrine (in Latin and Nahuatl) at the shrine, which had no resident chaplain.

Freyre makes the following chronological note: "...puede haber catorze años que fundó y hedificó el Illustrísimo Señor Arçobispo con las limosnas que dieron los fieles xpianos..." Translated: "...it may have been fourteen years since the Most Illustrious Lord Archbishop founded and built [the shrine] with the alms that the faithful Christians gave..." This would place the building of the shrine in 1555 or 1556, which accounts for why Freyre later says the archbishop is "patron of this shrine" (patrón de esta hermita).

Evidently, the chapel at Tepeyac in 1570 was built by order of Archbishop Montúfar around the time of the Bustamante controversy, in 1555 or 1556. This does not tell us if there was an earlier structure on that site. According to indigenous testimony, the original shrine housing the Image of Guadalupe was just a little house of adobe built by the Indians. It had no priest, so there was presumably no weekly Mass. This would not have been an official church building, but a lay shrine for the veneration of the Image. (Such unofficial shrines were common in the sixteenth century.) Montúfar, then, would be responsible for the ecclesiastical foundation of the ermita.

The fact that Montúfar built the shrine with alms given by the faithful suggests that the Guadalupan devotion already existed prior to this construction. This is consistent with the testimony of the Cuautitlan Indians that the original structure was a simple house of adobe without lime. Their ancestors' recollections of participating in the construction and maintenance of the shrine, however, might instead refer to this later structure built in the 1550s.

Freyre also reports that the monastery of Santiago Tlatelolco housed only six friars, five of whom were priests, and only three of the priests knew Nahuatl. This gives us some perspective on the Franciscan opposition to the cult, since, as far as we know, it was limited to the friars of Tlatelolco, who were then few in number, and only half of them even understood Nahuatl.

In the district of the chapel of Guadalupe, Freyre reports that there were 150 married Indians, and about a hundred single Indians aged twelve and up. There were six cattle ranches, on which there were six Spaniards, thirty slaves and forty servants who worked the ranches. Freyre was the only cleric at the shrine or on the ranches, and there was no Spaniard who was a resident (vezino) of that area. Evidently, the Villa de Guadalupe was not very big even after the boom in devotion, and it remained primarily a collection of large feudal landholdings. Although the Spanish gentry by now had acquired all these estates, the local population remained entirely indigenous. We can hardly avoid concluding that the Guadalupan devotion was in all likelihood indigenous in origin, as there would have been little reason at first for the Spanish to frequent this site.

Fray Diego de Santa María (1574-1575)

Fray Diego de Santa María, a Hieronymite monk from the monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura, visited Mexico in 1572 in order to determine if any of the alms bequested to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tepeyac actually belonged to the shrine in Extremadura. He reported his findings in two letters to the king of Spain dated 12 December 1574 and 24 March 1575.

In the first letter, Fray Diego reports that twelve years ago (1562), many alms were collected by a man claiming to represent the monastery of Guadalupe in Extremadura, but he fled after being exposed as an impostor. Some of the alms he collected remained with the majordomos of the shrine at Tepeyac, "which was then called by another name [i.e., not Guadalupe]. Understanding the devotion that Christians had toward Our Lady of Guadalupe, they changed the name and put the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as it is called today." The friar complains to the king that this shrine has defrauded the Extremadura sanctuary of its alms.

We can already see that Fray Diego's account of the facts is skewed by the monetary interests of his sanctuary. It is certainly not the case that the name of the shrine at Tepeyac was changed to Our Lady of Guadalupe belatedly around 1562. The name Guadalupe was already well established in the Información of 1556, though even then there were detractors who complained that this name was not appropriate. We should regard the remainder of the friar's claims, then, with due skepticism.

In order to buttress his claim that the Tepeyac shrine does not deserve these alms, Fray Diego gives a very disparaging description of the building and its environs. "This shrine now has two thousand pesos in rent and it is alleged about another two thousand in alms, and I do not see on what this could be spent, because it is not adorned and the building is very poor." We know from previous testimony that the current shrine was built by order of Archbishop Montúfar in 1555 or 1556, using alms that had been collected. This was not some primitive lay chapel, such as the house of adobe without lime that the Indians of Cuautitlán reported. Fray Diego is comparing the chapel with the much more ornate and architecturally sophisticated sanctuaries found in Spain, and he finds it incredible that a shrine with such revenues should have so modest a structure.

In this vein, the friar complains that the site of the shrine is a foul environment with saline earth and no fresh water. For these reasons, there can be no increase in the divine cult and services, even though the rent continues to increase. He recommends, therefore, that those in charge of the shrine should either remove the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe or at least move the shrine to some other place, because now the rent and alms are consumed or retained entirely by the majordomos, the archdeacon (arcediano), and other persons. The moved shrine could have a monastery of the [Hieronymite] Order, by order of the monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura.

While Fray Diego's complaints about the mismanagement of alms may have had merit, this has no direct bearing on whether the shrine had a legitimate claim to the name Guadalupe. The friar's proposed remedies are biased by the interests of his order. His suggestion to relocate the shrine betrays his ignorance of the significance of the site at Tepeyac. Yet we know the site was certainly important to the Mexicans, as we have seen earlier testimony that the Virgin or her Image "appeared" at Tepeyac, and of course that hill had also been an important religious site in pagan antiquity. We cannot, therefore, take the friar's dismissal of the site's importance as a disinterested assessment of the facts.

Still, after making due allowance for bias, Fray Diego's description gives us some sense that the ordinary operations of the chapel - not counting pilgrimages - remained on a modest scale. We know from earlier testimony that there were two weekly Masses and doctrine taught at the chapel, and that there was no resident priest. The surrounding countryside had only a few hundred inhabitants, many of whom harvested salt from the drying lake. There were little prospects for growth in the local population, since the land was mostly taken up by ranch estates. Fray Diego's letter indicates that this region was still sparsely populated in 1570, fifteen years after the burst of Guadalupan fervor that overtook the capital.

In his second letter, Fray Diego says that the shrine had been called Santa María de Guadalupe since the year 1560. He complains that many faithful have either forgotten the Guadalupe of Extremadura or think that the Mexican shrine is a branch of that same cult. The local clerics have done nothing to discourage this confusion, which is why the friar believes they are effectively defrauding his monastery of alms bequeathed in testaments. He again proposes entrusting this cult to his order, and establishing a Hieronymite monastery in Mexico. More pertinent to our inquiry, he says he attempted (without success, apparently) to find documents that would establish the origin and foundation of the shrine.

There is no mention of any apparition narrative, but this is hardly surprising, considering that the Spanish monk is ignorant even of the most basic aspects of the cult. He does not mention the sacred Image or its reputation to have worked miracles. He sees no significance to the site at Tepeyac, and erroneously thinks the name Guadalupe dates only to 1560 or 1562. He is manifestly hostile to the cult, so it is unlikely that the Guadalupan clerics and laity would have been especially cooperative. If there were documents of the apparition narrative or of the shrine's foundation, they would have been jealously guarded, judging from common practice at other shrines. At the very least, there ought to have been some documentation of Montúfar ordering the construction of the current shrine in 1555 or 1556, yet not even this was disclosed to fray Diego. This omission of so many factual points established by other sources only shows the hazards of making arguments from silence.

Whatever the merits of his claims, Fray Diego was unsuccessful in his petitions. The Marian cult was permitted to continue at Tepeyac as an independent devotion with the name Guadalupe, and the Hieronymites were not able to establish a foothold in Mexico. This was not due to any negligence by the royal authority, for we shall see in that same year of 1575 an explicit endorsement of the cult by the viceroy in a letter to the king.

Viceroy Martín Enriquez de Almanza (1575)

On May 15, 1575, King Philip II sent a letter to Martín Enríquez de Almanza, Viceroy of New Spain, inquiring about the foundation of the shrine of Guadalupe. This inquiry was undoubtedly prompted by the letters sent to the king from Fray Diego de Santa María, discussed above. The Viceroy gave his reply in a letter dated September 23, 1575. It is an invaluable account of the shrine's early history, consistent with what we have found in earlier testimonies, yet also providing factual details not found elsewhere. Any history of Guadalupe must take these facts into account.

The viceroy says he consulted with the archbishop [then Pedro Moya de Contreras] about the foundation of the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The answer begins:

...y el principio que tuvo la fundación de la iglesia que ahora está hecha, lo que comúnmente se entiende es que el año de 55 o 56 estaba allí una hermitilla, en la cual estaba la imagen que ahora está en la iglesia...

...and the beginning that the foundation of the church that is now made had, that which is commonly understood is that in the year 55 or 56 there was a small hermitage there, in which was the image that is now in the church...

Here for the first time is stated explicitly what until now we have only inferred: the current shrine built by Montúfar (which the viceroy calls an iglesia) was preceded by an earlier, more humble structure (hermitilla). This earlier structure already contained the same image that is in the present church. This should make clear that Montúfar was not the originator of the Image or its cult, but rather its promoter and patron. In what immediately follows, the viceroy explains how the Image already present in this little shrine became the object of a great devotion.

...y que un ganadero, que por allí andaba, publicó haber cobrado salud yendo [a] aquella ermita, y empezo a crecer la devoción de la gente, y pusieron nombre a la imagen Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, por decir que parecía a la de Guadalupe de España...

...and that a cattleman, who was going around there, announced he had gained his health going [to] that shrine, and the devotion of the people began to grow, and they put on the image the name Our Lady of Guadalupe, by which to say that it appeared like that of Guadalupe of Spain...

In this telling - which is presented not as definite fact but as "it is commonly understood" - the miraculous healing of a cattle rancher led to the burst of devotion in 1555 or 1556. This is consistent with how events were portrayed in the Información of 1556. Now we are provided the significant detail that it was a cattleman, a distinctively Spanish occupation, who proclaimed the first miracle. It is only when one of the few Spaniards in the area of Tepeyac had a miraculous experience that the devotion became widely known among the Spanish in the capital. The unspoken implication is that the devotion had been entirely indigenous before then, as to be expected, considering the location and humility of the shrine, and the artistic style of its icon.

The viceroy suggests that the name Guadalupe was first applied to the icon by the Spanish in 1555 or 1556 because it was similar to that of Extremadura. The two Guadalupan icons are similar only in the respect of having dark skin, but this is still a plausible account of the name's origin, considering the importance of the Spanish Guadalupe for those living in Mexico. This identification might have been further suggested if the indigenous name for the icon sounded similar to Guadalupe, as Becerra Tanco proposed.

As the devotion grew, the letter continues, a confraternity of 400 men was founded, and from the alms was built the church and building. The Viceroy explains that the site is not a convenient place to establish a monastery, nor even to found a parish, as the prelate would like, neither for Spaniards nor for Indians. He had entreated the prelate that it sufficed to have a cleric of good character to offer confession to those who went there out of devotion. The alms could be spent on the poor in the hospital for Indians, or else for the housing of orphans. The archbishop has placed two clerics there, and if the rent grows he wants to place another. Thus he addresses the complaints of mismanagement made by the Hieronymite friar.

As late as 1575, the area around Tepeyac was still too sparsely populated to merit establishing a parish there. This meant the devotion of the shrine consisted primarily of people from outside that region. Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac was not a mere local cult, but had a broader character.

Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1575-1577, 1585)

We recall that the Franciscans at Tlatelolco were already distrustful of the Guadalupan cult in the 1550s, suspecting that it would lead the Indians back into idolatrous practices. These concerns were not abated by 1575, as we can see in the testimony of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, the first ethnographer of the Aztecs. Sahagún had lived in New Spain since 1529, and was one of the founders of the Colegio de Santa Cruz at Tlatelolco. He had always been in close contact with the Indians about their culture, and had mastered Nahuatl. In 1558, he was commissioned to begin an exhaustive study of indigenous culture, resulting in his encyclopedic Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España. Although his only field research was in Tepepolco to the northeast, his position at the monastery of Tlatelolco gave him access to a wealth of information about Indian culture from other areas, and he did not neglect to mention the cult at Tepeyac.

After the early missionary period, Sahagún became acutely skeptical of the authenticity of the Indians' conversion, finding that many of them understood Christian teachings in a pagan sense. These suspicions appeared to be confirmed as he gained greater familiarity with indigenous customs. This finding was not unique to Sahagún, but was also reported by other clerics throughout Spanish America. At the same time, Sahagún had to be careful to present Indian culture in a way that he did not seem to be praising heathenism, especially as the Inquisition was formally established in Mexico in 1570. These dispositions must be kept in mind when reading the friar's comments about the devotion at Tepeyac, which he includes in an appendix "About Superstitions."

Near the mountains there are three or four places where they used to make very solemn sacrifices, and they would come from very distant lands. One of these is here in Mexico, where there is a little mount called Tepeacac, and the Spanish call it Tepeaquilla, and now it is called Our Lady of Guadalupe. In this place they had a temple dedicated to the mother of the gods who was called Tonantzin, which means Our Mother. There they made many sacrifices in honor of this goddess, and they came to them from very distant lands, from more than twenty leagues... men and women, boys and girls would come to these festivals; it was a great gathering of people in those days, and everyone would say let's go to the feast of Tonantzin. And now that there is built there the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe they also call her Tonantzin, which arose from the preachers who called Our Lady the Mother of God Tonantzin. From where originated the foundation of this Tonantzin is not known for sure, but we certainly know that the word signifies in its first imposition that ancient Tonantzin, and this is something that should be remedied because the proper name of the Mother of God Our Lady is not Tonantzin, but Dios y Nantzin. It seems a satanic invention to palliate idolatry under the equivocation of this name Tonantzin, and now they come to visit this Tonantzin from very far, as far as before, the such devotion is also suspicious, because everywhere there are many churches of Our Lady, and they do not go to these, yet they come from distant lands to this Tonantzin, as of old. [Historia general, III, (1575-77)]

First, Sahagún notes that the hill of Tepeyac was formerly the site where sacrifice was offered to the goddess Tonantzin. This overt idolatry would have been forbidden by the Spanish, so he is obviously speaking of practices before the Conquest, or at least before the arrival of the Franciscans. He is not here speaking of the Guadalupan devotion.

Next, he says that, now that the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is built on that site, they also refer to her as Tonantzin, following the lead of some preachers who used that term, meaning "Our Mother," to refer to the Blessed Virgin. When Sahagún says he does not know where this Tonantzin originated from, he intends primarily the apparent revival of worship to the pagan goddess, not the proper devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In any case, he says that the origin of this cult is not certain, so it is possible that Sahagún heard one or more legends regarding its origin, but did not regard them as certain.

Sahagún's uncertainty proves that the apparition narrative was not universally accepted in 1575, though we cannot be sure to what extent, if any, it was propagated at all. The friar's ignorance is acutely problematic to a strictly traditional account of the development of the devotion, as he lived in Mexico from before 1531, and had been in close contact with various Indians throughout his long life there. This would seem to preclude any overt involvement by the Franciscans of Tlatelolco in the establishment of the devotion at Tepeyac.

Yet it is not clear if Sahagún is professing ignorance of how the chapel and its image came to be at Tepeyac, or if he is perplexed at why there is this widespread devotion to Tonantzin, on a scale rivaling that of the devotion of the old Tonantzin. We should be clear that, for Sahagún, this new Tonantzin (which he calls "este Tonantzin") is not identical with the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe. He believes that the Tonantzin currently worshiped is some new pagan devotion that was facilitated by careless preachers who referred to the Blessed Virgin by this title. If they were merely venerating the Blessed Virgin, he reasons, they should go to one of her many other chapels instead of coming from afar to visit this one.

Still, Sahagún would not have found the widespread devotion to the shrine at Tepeyac too surprising if he was fully aware of the apparition narrative. We can only conclude that he was partially or wholly ignorant of this story. If he did know anything of the apparition narrative, he evidently did not think it significant in explaining the devotion of the vast majority of Indians at that time.

At the same time, Sahagún's ignorance contradicts those who would argue that it was common knowledge in the 1550s that Archbishop Montúfar started the devotion or that Marcos painted the Image. If these facts were widely accepted, Sahagún could hardly profess ignorance of the cult's origin. He resided in the Franciscan monastery of Tlatelolco in 1556, so he would have certainly been aware of the Bustamante controversy. He evidently considered that friar's account of the cult's origin to be less than certain in fact. We have already seen from a more careful examination of the Información that the little shrine had already existed before the sensation of 1555-56, and it had served as a site of devotion for the Indians even before the Spanish took interest.

When Fray Bernardino refers to a "satanic invention," he is not disparaging the cult of Guadalupe, but rather the equivocal use of the term Tonantzin. He thinks some misguided preachers applied this term to Our Lady in order to "palliate idolatry" among the Indians. In this good intention, they were deceived by the devil, who took advantage of the opportunity to revive paganism among the Indians. In the sixteenth century, satanic agency was interpreted quite literally, and it was commonly believed that pagan deities were demonic inventions. This is why Sahagún counts "this Tonantzin" as a new cult, distinct from "that Tonantzin" of old. Accordingly, his discussion of the pre-Conquest Tonantzin does not suffice to explain how this new Tonantzin came to be established. This new Tonantzin is a distinct entity from Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is some adaptation of the old goddess, Sahagún suspects, who is covertly worshiped by Indians outwardly professing Guadalupan devotion.

A respect for the devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe need not preclude the possibility that Fray Bernardino's observations were largely accurate. Even in modern times, we find that completely legitimate Catholic devotions are frequently mixed with pagan superstitions among the less educated or indigenous classes in Spanish America. The diverse forms of santería are but the most striking example of such perversion from the faith. We today are less quick to ascribe these deviations to satanic influence, but instead might view them sympathetically as signs of ignorance in need of correction. Thus a modern Catholic should not find the admixture of idolatry in early Guadalupan devotion as scandalous as those of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries might.

In a later work, Sahagún makes a similar criticism of the idolatrous aspect to Indian devotion at Tepeyac. His Kalendario mexicano, latino y castellano (c. 1585) contains a description of indigenous rituals and festivals, followed by what the author calls "dissimulations," that is, covert pagan practices under the guise of Christian devotion.

The 3rd dissimulation is taken from the names of the idols that were there commemorated that the names with which they are called in Latin or in Spanish mean the same as what the name of the idol that they worshiped there of old meant. As in this City of Mexico in the place where there is Holy Mary of Guadalupe, there was worshiped an idol that was formerly called Tonantzin and with this same name the now name Our Lady the Virgin Mary, saying that they are going to Tonantzin, or that they are having a festival for Tonantzin, and understanding this in the old [sense] and not in the new.

Again, the friar is not condemning the legitimate devotion of Guadalupe, but what seems to him to be an abuse. He makes similar remarks about crypto-pagan practices in other esteemed shrines. The Indians' repeated reference to Our Lady as Tonantzin, Sahagún believes, is understood in a pagan sense. It is not clear exactly how he would know this, given that the Indians would not have dared to admit idolatry to a Spanish cleric. In the Historia general he only says that he suspects, not that he knows. Here he makes no such qualification, so his suspicions apparently have not abated in the ten years that have elapsed (1575-1585).

The omission of any mention of the apparition narrative here is less significant, since Sahagún's purpose is only to describe abuses, not to explain the origin of the shrine. We cannot say then for certain that he did not know the story of Juan Diego by 1585. If he did not learn this story from the Indians, that would not be terribly surprising, given that he suspected them of idolatry merely for using the name Tonantzin ("Our Mother"). They would hardly have been willing to disclose to the friar that they thought the Image was made in Heaven and could therefore work miracles.

Although Sahagún's testimony offers us no positive knowledge of the origin of the Guadalupan devotion, he does attest to the phenomenal extent of this devotion among the Indians at this time. As early as the 1570s, at least, they would come from distant regions of Mexico to venerate the image. This devotion cannot be attributed solely to the intervention of Archbishop Montúfar in the 1550s, for he would have had little impact on the local devotions of remote Indian villages. There was clearly something going on within Indian culture that made the shrine of Guadalupe unusually important. P. Sahagún was not sure what it was, but based on the history of that site, he suspected it was a revival of ancient idolatry.

It was perhaps at this point in time that the legend of Juan Diego spread beyond Cuautitlán and extended throughout the indigenous population of greater Mexico. This evangelization may have been occasioned by the upsurge in pilgrimages that followed the miraculous healing in 1555. While we obviously cannot use Sahagún's silence as evidence that such a legend was circulating, this interpretation is congruent with the testimonies of 1666 in Mexico City, which attest that the apparition narrative was well known to the Spanish in the capital by 1590, as well as earlier evidence suggesting it was well known in Cuautitlán but not elsewhere in the 1550s. Sahagún fills a gap in our knowledge, indicating a period in the 1570s when the apparition narrative may have become widely known among the Indians but not yet among the Spanish.

Miles Philips (1582)

A foreign perspective of the Guadalupe shrine is offered by the English pirate Miles Philips, who was captured on the coast of Panuco in 1568 and brought to Mexico City. In his account written in 1582, Philips recalls visiting the splendid shrine at Tepeyac on the way to the capital:

The next morning we departed from thence [Cuautitlán, where Philips noted "a faire house of gray friers, howueit wee saw none of them"] on our iourney towards Mexico ad so trauelled till wee came within two leagues of it, where there was built by the Spaniards a very faire church, called our Ladyes church, in which there is an image of our Lady of siluer & gilt, being as high, & as large as a tall woman, in which church, and before this image, there are as many lamps of siluer as there be days in the yeere, which upon high days are all lighted. Whensoeuer any Spaniards passe by this church, although they be on horse backe, they will alight, and come into the church, and kneele before the image, and pray to our Lady to defend them from all euil; so that whether he be a horseman or footman he will not pass by, but first goe into the Church, and pray as aforesaid, which if they doe not, they thinke and beleeue that they shall neuer prosper: which image they call in the Spanish tongue, Nuestra sennora de Guadalupe. At this place there are certain cold baths, which arise, springing up as though the water did seeth: the water whereof is somewhat brackish in taste, but very good for any that haue any sore or wound, to wash themselves there with, for as they say, it healeth many: and euery yeere once upon our Lady day the people vse to repaire thither to offer, and to pray in that Church before the image, and they say that our Lady of Guadalupe doeth work a number of miracles. About this Church there is not any towne of Spaniards that is inhabited, but certain Indians doe dwell there in houses of their own countrey building.

This account was first published in 1589 by Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616) in a collection titled: The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation.... The 1598 printing is still extant. Philip's account gives us an outsider's glimpse into the state of Guadalupan devotion in 1568.

Philips is fairly impressed with the beauty of the church and its adornments, as contrasted with Fray Diego de Santa María, who described the building in 1575 as "very poor" and "unadorned". The Hieronymite friar was looking at the shrine through the eyes of a Spaniard, accustomed to extremely ornate houses of worship. By the standards of an Englishman, however, the shrine built under Archbishop Montúfar seemed lavish. The abundance of silver lamps attests to the wide esteem for the Virgin of Guadalupe held by the Spanish nobility, as it was the custom for distant dignitaries to donate such lamps in order to offer perpetual veneration.

Philips' description of the Image itself is confusing, for he appears to refer to the life-size silver statue donated by Alonso de Villaseca in 1566. It is this "silver & gilt" image that he describes as the venerated Image. It is scarcely conceivable that the sacred painting would have been removed from view and replaced by the statue, as this seems hardly congruous with the deep devotion shown to the painted Image by the 1550s. On the other hand, the painting might have been temporarily removed precisely in order to discourage idolatry, so that the Image of the Virgin, rather than the paint and canvas, should be venerated.

It is possible, though less likely, that Philips is describing the painted Image as "silver & gilt", for he never calls it a statue. After all, the Image of Guadalupe is fairly large (1.43 m) and might seem the size of a tall woman (by sixteenth century standards) from a distance. There is an abundance of gold in the image, from the Virgin's dress to the surrounding rays of light. Still, it is not clear what Philips might have perceived as silver. It might have been the Virgin's complexion or perhaps there were additional painted stars at one time (as later expert testimony would suggest). Although such features would barely be suggestive of precious metals to us, Philips looked upon the painting with a pirate's eye, and this may have colored his impressions, as well as his later recollection.

As of 1568, the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe seems to have remained strong among the Spaniards, as they would not dare pass the shrine without going in to venerate the Image. There were still no Spanish living in the area, so we should not be surprised if the Indian understanding of the devotion was markedly different from that of the Spanish at this time.

Miles Philips gives us the earliest definite testimony about a healing spring near the shrine. His account is again more sympathetic than that of Diego de Santa María, who spoke of a foul environment with no fresh water. Philips notes that the water is indeed brackish, but still is good for washing wounds, and is reputed to have great healing powers. We should look to this period, then, as the background for the stories of the miraculous spring described in the Nican motecpana.

Philips also relates that on a certain annual feast of Our Lady, large numbers of people would go to the shrine to pray before the Image, and he was told many miracles would be worked on such occasions. This feast might have been that of the Nativity of Our Lady on September 8, which we recall was when Archbishop Montúfar saw fit to give his sermon on Guadalupe, or it may have been on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which was long associated with the Guadalupan image. Philips does not claim to have been present during this feast, but only relates what he was told about the devotion.

There is no mention of the apparition narrative or any other attempt to explain the origin of the shrine. This is unremarkable, since Philips was a foreign prisoner and could only relate what his captors chose to tell him. Still, it seems likely that the Spanish would have boasted of the Image's miraculous origin if they had known of this legend, so its omission suggests that the apparition narrative was still generally unknown among the Spanish. This ignorance would also account for why the Spanish clergy might have seen nothing irreverent about temporarily removing the painting from public view.

Antonio de Ciudad Real (1585)

In 1584, Fray Alonso Ponce was named general commissary of the Franciscans in New Spain. He arrived in the New World on September 12, and soon began a visit of all the Franciscan provinces. An account of this tour was recorded by his secretary Fray Antonio de Ciudad Real. On Tuesday July 23, 1585, Ponce departed his estate at Tlatelolco on the way to San Cristobal Ecatepec. Ciudad Real described the estate and the road they followed to Tepeyac (which is today the Calzada de los Misterios) along the way.

...having passed a good portion of the lake of Mexico... along an avenue of stone for half a league, in which many waterways (acequías or irrigation canals) are crossed by wooden bridges, [the father commissary and company] at last crossed a very large [waterway] by a stone bridge, next to which there is a little town of Mexican Indians, and in it, leaning against a hill, is a shrine or church called Our Lady of Guadalupe, where the Spaniards of Mexico go to light candles or have novenas, and there resides a cleric who says Mass to them. In that town the Indians had, long ago in their heathen days, an idol named Ixpuchtli which means virgin or maiden, and they would come to there as to a sanctuary from all that land, with their gifts and offerings.

Ciudad Real says that the father commissary spent some time there and continued on his way. He tells us nothing about their brief visit, since this was not their destination, except that the hill of Guadalupe was a more difficult slope to climb than subsequent hills. For all that, he is still able to offer us some detail about the history of the site. It is possible that he learned this not on the journey, but from discussions with Franciscans or Indians back in Tlatelolco.

The shrine (ermita) is now also called a church (iglesia), since it finally has a resident priest. Still, only Indians live in the town, though Spaniards also make pilgrimages to the shrine and hear Mass there. The presence of a resident priest suggests the cult has continued to grow since the 1550s, as each later testimony indicates some improvement to the shrine or its services.

When describing the worship at Tepeyac in pagan times, Ciudad Real does not mention the name Tonantzin but instead speaks of the goddess Ixpuchtli, "the virgin". This Aztec deity, also known as Xochiquetzal, was responsible for love, marriage and fertility. It seems strange that Ciudad Real should not mention the name Tonantzin, which was still used by the Indians to refer to Our Lady of Guadalupe. This can be explained by the fact that Tonantzin ("Our Mother" in reverential form) was a title that was applied to various goddesses, including Ixpuchtli. Ciudad Real asserts that this virgin goddess was the one who was worshipped at Tepeyac, further strengthening the connection between the ancient and new devotions. However, the writer does not mention this fact in order to condemn the present Indians or accuse them of idolatry, but only to show an interesting parallelism.

Ciudad Real's testimony, like that of Sahagún, strongly indicates that the Indians devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe was undertaken on their own initiative and was informed by their own cultural traditions. Sahagún believed there was crypto-paganism in this devotion, while Ciudad Real offers no such judgment. In either case, it is clear that the Guadalupan devotion is not something that was foisted upon the Indians by the Spanish, as many revisionist historians have claimed. As late as 1580, there is but a lone resident priest representing the Spanish at Tepeyac, which is otherwise populated solely by Indians. The Franciscans at Tlatelolco, who are the only local clergy that regularly interact with the Indians in their language, are positively hostile to the devotion. Yet despite this lukewarm effort to promote the cult in the countryside, there are countless Indians from all parts of Mexico who come to venerate the Image. The Franciscans are perplexed by this devotion, and are at a loss to explain its origin, so they search for parallels in ancient pagan practices. Whether their sentiment was paganized or truly Christian, it seems clear that the Indians propagated the devotion on their own initiative. If anything, it was the Spanish who were the latecomers.

Juan Suárez de Peralta (c. 1589)

Although Ciudad Real, who was new to America, does not mention the apparition narrative, we have reason to believe that this was already known among the Spaniards of Mexico by 1580. Juan Suárez de Peralta, a nobleman born in Mexico City in 1536 or 1537, lived in New Spain until 1579, when he moved to Spain and remained there for the rest of his life. Accordingly, his testimony about the Guadalupan devotion tells us the state of affairs before 1580, though it was written around 1589.

Suárez de Peralta describes the arrival of the viceroy Enríquez de Almanza, who had defeated the slave trafficking fleet of the English pirate John Hawkins, the same commander who had been forced to leave Miles Philips and others on the coast. This took place in 1568, as mentioned earlier. The new viceroy was given many receptions in each town, as was the custom.

...and so he arrived at Our Lady of Huadalupe [sic], which is a most venerated (devotísima) image, that is about two leagues from Mexico, which has worked miracles (she appeared among some crags, and all the land comes to this devotion), and from there he entered into Mexico...

The viceroy's visit to Guadalupe shows that this devotion was highly esteemed in 1568. This is not surprising, given how the nobility reacted to Fray Bustamante's anti-Guadalupan sermon in 1556. Evidently the devotion had not appreciably abated when this new viceroy arrived. Visiting the shrine was a custom common to all viceroys, as Fray Juan de Torquemada attests in his Monarquía indiana (1615), where he describes the arrival of the Viceroy Don Luis de Velasco in 1589. Torquemada says Don Luis spent the night at Our Lady of Guadalupe, "a place where all the viceroys stop, and where they have certain festivities". (Bk.II:423, ed. León-Portilla)

More striking is Peralta's specific claim that "she appeared among some crags" (aparecióse entre unos riscos). This agrees with the detail in the Nican mopohua that the Virgin first appeared amidst luminous stones on the craggy hill of Tepeyac. Now, it is grammatically possible that Peralta means that the Image appeared rather than the Blessed Virgin herself, in which case we would have a legend like that of Los Remedios and other shrines, where a holy icon is miraculously discovered. However, the supposition that he is referring to personal apparition would be more consistent with other evidence we have examined, namely the testimonies of the older witnesses of 1666, as well as the extant late sixteenth century manuscript of the Nican mopohua, which attest that the apparition narrative was well known by 1590. Suárez de Peralta's testimony allows us to push that date back to 1579, thereby completing our outline of the early propagation of Guadalupan devotion.

Synthesis of Evidence

The sixteenth-century fragments discussed can help us construct a sketch of the probable development of the Guadalupan devotion in general, and of the apparition narrative in particular. We will find that this sketch is consistent with previously examined testimonies and manuscripts, yet we will still need to confirm our hypotheses against indigenous codices and account for the argument from silence.

It is possible, but not definite, that the shrine at Tepeyac received devotion under the name Guadalupe as early as the 1530s. In any event, by 1554 there was already an existing Indian shrine that had some repute, though the Spaniards generally did not know what was the origin of this shrine. This building was just a simple adobe structure with a painted Image of the Virgin. It had no chaplain and no official ecclesiastical status. It was simply a shrine for the lay devotions of the Indians in the countryside.

In 1555, a Spanish cattle rancher was miraculously healed after praying before the Image, and this created a sensation among the Spaniards in the capital. Soon many upper class Spanish ladies were making regular pilgrimages to the shrine. As numerous people adopted the devotion, more miraculous cures were claimed, causing the Image to be more greatly esteemed.

The Franciscans at Tlatelolco, most notably Fray Francisco de Bustamante, grew alarmed at the Guadalupan fervor. They feared that the Indians would start to think that the Image itself worked miracles, and so lapse into idolatry. They evidently did not object to Indian veneration of Marian images, for they had permitted the shrine to exist in the past, and might even have sanctioned its original construction. They objected to the apparent claim that the Image itself - the canvas and paper, rather than the Blessed Virgin - worked miracles. The Franciscans had no knowledge of a miraculous origin for this Image, and naturally believed it was painted by an Indian, since it was originally an Indian lay chapel. This ignorance of origins was shared by most Spaniards, including those who were devoted to Guadalupe.

Archbishop Montúfar gave definitive ecclesiastical sanction of the cult in 1556. He dismissed the objections of the Franciscans, yet at the same time did not find that Bustamante had said anything contrary to faith. We do not know the result of his inquiry into the early miracle claims, but his subsequent endorsement of the devotion and construction of a new shrine suggests he found nothing harmful in the beliefs of Guadalupan devotees.

Meanwhile, as early as 1559, the Indians of Cuautitlán had a tradition that the Blessed Virgin had appeared on Tepeyac to Juan Diego, a holy man of their town, and that this accounted for the origin of the miraculous Image. They passed this tradition on to their descendants, but in a partly confused manner. Their work in building and maintaining the second shrine under Montúfar was remembered by their descendants as having been the original shrine. Similarly, the great procession led by the Archbishop to the renovated shrine was later believed to have occurred under Zumárraga, who was bishop at the time of the apparitions to Juan Diego.

Outside of Cuautitlán, few Indians knew anything about the legend of Juan Diego. They believed only that the Image could work miracles, and that it had "appeared" on Tepeyac no later than 1555, which is to say that most Indians only became aware of the Image around that time. Their pilgrimages to the shrine increased in number, so that by 1575 it was as popular as it had been before the Conquest.

In this intermediate period (1555-1575), the shrine only had a non-resident priest to say Mass. Still, the Image was deeply and widely venerated by Spaniards and Indians. At some point in this period, the legend of Juan Diego and the miraculous origin of the Image may have spread among the Indians well beyond Cuautitlán. This would account for their impressively long pilgrimages, which so perplexed the Franciscans. The legend remained generally unknown among the Spanish during this time.

Finally, in the 1580s, the apparition narrative became widely known among the Spanish in Mexico City. They had little difficulty accepting the story, since by now it was well established that the Image worked countless miracles. It was passed on by word of mouth for several decades, until Sánchez and Lasso de la Vega undertook their efforts to record the Guadalupan tradition in detail.

There are still some significant gaps in this account of the likely development of the Guadalupan tradition. In particular, we still know very little about the state of the tradition among the Indians prior to 1555, so it is difficult to say how sound is their claim that the events of the narrative occurred in the time of Zumárraga. The silence of Zumárraga, combined with that of Sahagún, who resided in Tlatelolco the whole time, remains problematic to the claim that the bishop played a prominent role in the confirmation of the Guadalupan miracle. We also lack information about the origin of the Nican mopohua and the early practices of the Indians in commemorating the prodigious event. To address these problems, we will have to turn to indigenous codices and pictographic annals from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Since the dating and interpretation of these documents are matters of dispute, we can only attempt tentative solutions to the remaining problems outlined.

Continue to Part X


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