Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe?

Chris Kaufman AP Teresa Romero, 5, of Yuba City sits next to a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at … Continued

Chris Kaufman


Teresa Romero, 5, of Yuba City sits next to a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Isidore Catholic Church Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 in Yuba City, Calif. December 12 marks the feast day of the Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas who appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico City in 1531.

1. Who is “Our Lady” and why is she important?

The Blessed Mother is a sacred force. She is known throughout the world by thousands of names. In the West, we may know her as Holy Mother, Seat of Wisdom, She Who is Clothed with the Sun, Virgo Maria.

The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe showcases one of the most stunning visitations by Our Lady in the world.The story, as it has been passed down, is that she appeared nearly 500 years ago to a beaten down, poor, enslaved Nahua (Aztec) Indian. His indigenous name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, Speaking Eagle, and he was one of the surviving medicine people. In his culture, the eagle sees into two worlds as messenger between holy sky people and people of earth.

After the Conquest of Mejico, during ongoing cultural upheavals and wars, Cuauhtlatoatzin’s name became Juan Diego. One day he, then an old man, passed the ancient hill sacred to Nahua peoples- where the temple to Tonanzin, the Goddess of the Nahua had been torn down by forced labor of the native people. Suddenly on the hill appeared an arresting woman in a gown of roses and mantle of stars. She spoke these heartening words that we, as Guadalupaños/as hold close in our hearts as La esperanza, ultimate hope for all things: “Have you forgotten? I am your mother. You are under my protection.”

Cuauhtlatoatzin and his people needed protection, they craved their Holy Mother. But, as the elders in our families remind us, La Señora de Guadalupe is also known by many names, including most prominently by the beloved name La Conquista. This means, Our Lady Who Conquers all Hearts. She is also patroness of those who have been hurt, Our Lady of the Conquered. Although to many she represents the Virgin Mary of Christianity, to others, she represents the feminine divine in all, the female incarnation of holiness.

Because she appeared not to highest of high, richest, most powerful, most intellectual, but rather to an native healer who called himself ‘but a little rope, a tiny leaf’ compared to her magnitude… for us who are old believers, this compassionate fire of her ever merciful love catches on our deadwood and we begin to burn brighter in our lives. Our Lady seems to often come to those of us who are in some way, too, frayed little ropes, tiny leaves blown about. Thus, she is known too, as Reweaver of the Unraveled. Calm Center of the Storm.

2. Why did you decide to write a book about her?

The book
Untie the Strong Woman
contains many stories of souls who were blown about. It tells about many of us striving to re-center daily in the compassion of the Great Woman, La Morena, Black Madonna, La Lupita, Amma, Mami, Nuestra Madre, Our Mother. We live in a world wherein some choose not to pursue the iconic holy. And, yet, many of us choose to pursue Blessed Mother in particular, as our exemplar.

Though some parts of the culture ridicule the holy, some ‘pay to degrade the soul,’ and some say the sacred is the exclusive province only of the self-appointed few, I see it is time to take courage and say aloud now that Holy Mother is still deeply wanted, and needed, by many souls. Despite all naysaying attempts to obliterate her, measure her, confine her, demean those who love follow her–despite all this, ancient Holy Mother of Mercy keeps appearing to us daily. She brings us compassion, wisdom, blessing beyond mere human means. Sometimes she appears, yes, in full sight, full hearing, fullest heart knowing, sometimes saving lives, at others delivering a message that brings true peace to those in prisons of many kinds.

3. How does Our Lady differ from other sacred women?

I’ve written over these four decades about The Wild Woman, The Wise Woman and now The Holy Woman. I believe they are one and the same under the beautiful name, mother. If there is one thing that stands out about men and women who strive to walk with Holy Mother, no matter what name they know her by, ancient or modern… it is that when asked who she is, most inevitably say softly and with great love some version of, “Ella es mi Madre, She is my Mother.” May it be so for all in need.

Sarah A. Miller


A young girl dressed as the Virgin Mary holds still as she rides on a float up North Broadway Street in Tyle, Texasr during the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parade Sunday evening, Dec. 11, 2011. December 12 marks the feastday of the Virgin Mary, or Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas who appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico City in 1531.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet, diplomate senior Jungian psychoanalyst, and cantadora (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition). She is the author of the bestselling book Women Who Run with the Wolves (Ballantine 1992, 1995), which sold over a million copies, and the multi-volume audio series The Dangerous Old Woman (Sounds True, 2010, 2011). Untie the Strong Woman (November 2011) is her most recent book. Visit her Web site.

  • ConnieMyres

    I didn’t realize that Juan Diego was an Aztec Indian and a medicine man. It is comforting to know that Our Lady said, “You are under my protection.” Is she pictured as being with child?

  • jkamaney

    So, Mejico, really? Not only “Our Lady of Guadalupe” represents the cultural colonization of the Americas, but the Castillian spelling of MEXICO points at the continuing disrespect and despice for the Native American roots of that country, devastated by the Spaniards.

  • WillowTree

    She appeared as an Aztec woman, speaking Aztec, wearing a sash that they would wear when they were carrying a child. Artist/author Tomie de Paolo wrote a lovely book for children about the apparation. I recommend it highly.

  • projectscreener

    .Thanks JK, And my peers and I use Aztlan, Mejico and Mexico sometimes in the same writing, depending on the mix of the work. Viz Ana Castillo, R. Anaya and others. Here, in this land of our fathers and mothers, one culture made a two pronged devasation as one sees in modern time, between an army and a set of ruling prelates who were filled with many estomagos vacios, rabid hunger for slaves and gold. The latter imported with a vengeance what we have called for centuries ‘the Mexican Inquisition” to this land, which was concomitant with what was being perpetrated amongst the poor and ‘differently worshipping’ people of Spain. It is impossible to cram into the requirement of 700 some words, the entire panorama. Just this then, for now, La Señora represents love and not dying on our knees. This is just my .02. And thanks again JK… Dr.e (there may be 3 versions of my comment floating out there, I am not great at the ins and outs of digital rube0goldberg yet. My grandchildren however, are. lol

  • projectscreener

    that would be ‘devastation’

  • goochmom

    Thanks, Clarissa. I’m reading Wolves now as it was recommended by many people at a writing conferece. Great stuff. Mary is my heroine. Thank you for honoring her and our faith. So many misunderstand why Mary is so very important.

  • ccnl1

    Canonization of the likes of Pio and Juan eliminates any consideration of papal infallibility.

  • WmarkW

    POST REMOVED: WP.com deleted my post below for violating the discussion policy.

    The post read approximately “Well, I supposed symbolic cannibalism is better than the real thing.”

    As a description of the replacement of traditional Aztec religion with Catholicism, this is well within the scope of On Faith’s subject matter, and WP.com either doesn’t get it, or is too politically correct to tolerate vigorous debate.

  • Seven77

    This article sheds no light on who Our Lady of Guadalupe is… it’s full of vague statements on the author’s concept of sociopolitical “holiness.” Unfortunately, the author of this article doesn’t seem to know who she is talking about. In the 1600s the Mesoamerican work known as the Nican Mopohua was written in the Nahuatl language… it specifies that the young woman who appeared to Juan Diego called herself the holy and immaculate Virgin Mother of the true God. Clearly this is a Catholic Christian understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady of Guadalupe identified herself as the mother of Christ… she was pregnant as if to give birth on December 25 as scientific evidence suggests. The people of Juan Diego’s time had no trouble accepting Our Lady for what she really is… not by compulsion but out of sincere humility in the face of the proofs of God’s love for humanity. it is the modern contemporary critical scholarship that confuses the objective identity of Our Lady with the subjectivity of opinion. May the Woman who crushes the serpent underfoot pray for all who read these words. ¡Viva La Virgen De Guadalupe!

  • blazrlazr

    Truly, this was a vision of a shaman ! How many times in the course of human events have the Big Three – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – co-opted for their own
    controlling purposes the mystical aspects of The Old Religion ? Hermes rules !

  • blazrlazr

    Truly, this was a vision of a shaman ! How many times in the course of human events have the Big Three – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – co-opted for their own
    controlling purposes the mystical aspects of The Old Religion ? Hermes rules !

  • projectscreener

    hi seven77; actually many scholars, speculate that the entire Nican you mention is to be contested as made up. I dont have a dog in that fight. But, the history of hat happened, how and to whom,is very checkered and overlaid by various. Yours may be one idea, but there are literally millions who understand her as she appears to them via heart and soul. That you revere in your own way that matters to you, and that goodness flows from that, is what I think matters most. Just my .02

  • projectscreener

    Hello there Connie, in the many stories handed down over nearly 500 years, it is said she was wearing a certain kind of cintura, which is a belt-like sash worn around the back and belly, even today by some of our familiares, to embrace/ support the belly as the child grows within. The report that she was wearing this kind of cintura indicated to many that she was understood to be with child. Yours was a good question. Thank you.
    dr. cpe

  • tonyvincent

    I’m sorry but your comment is not “vigorous debate” but rabble-rousing. Poking a jab at Catholics has nothing to do with intelligent discussion. Please consider the true intentions of your words before submitting them. Remember there are real people behind these names, all of which, deserve respect.

  • tonyvincent

    I’m curious what your meaning is here? Also, it seems you do not have a full understanding of the canonization process and infallibility.

  • tonyvincent

    Thank you seven77 I also think there is a little bit missing here which demeans the place of Our Lady in the Catholic faith. It seems where in ancient times, Christians, in evangelizing took pagan practices and baptized them, today Christian practices are being re-secularized. I think that this is an unfortunate change.

    While the history of this story is interesting, I think you cannot deny the true connection of the Blessed Mother as Mother of Christ.