Juan Diego was born in 1474 in the Aztec Empire, in the center of present-day Mexico. He was called Cuauhtlatoatzin, which means "the talking Eagle". His family were simple peasants from Cuauhtitlan (Land of Eagles), a village near Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). As a child, he attended school, where he was taught culture, religion, the history of elders, reading the codex and calendars, all according to the knowledge of Toltec thought. This current of thought was one of the wisest in the region and included an idea of the one God.
In 1487, at the age of 13, Cuauhtlatoatzin witnessed the inauguration of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, where tens of thousands of sacrifices were made. Never had so much blood been shed, and certainly the young boy wondered about this religion dedicated to the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli.
In 1519, the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Veracruz and in 1524, the Franciscan missionaries arrived in their turn. Providentially, it is in the valley of the Anahuac that they began their work; where Cuauhtlatoatzin lived. The Franciscans lived poorly and proclaimed a religion to the one God, to a God who loves men. Cuauhtlatoatzin waited in his heart for this God of love, and decided quickly with his wife and uncle to be baptized. He was then 50 years old, and it was a Franciscan priest, Father Peter de Ghent, one of the first missionaries, who baptized him. He received the name Juan Diego and his wife Maria Lucia. From then on, Juan Diego went twice a week to Tlatelolco to attend the religious instruction courses of his new faith. For this, he traveled a distance of 20 km round-trip and was nicknamed "the pilgrim". He took advantage of being in town to take care of his pottery and weaving business. In his village, Juan Diego passed on to his loved ones everything he had learned, making himself one of the new native evangelizers.
Juan Diego married his wife religiously, and having heard of the vow of chastity that pleases God through the brethren, they decided together to offer God their chastity. They already had a son, who was also baptized as Juan. In 1529 Maria Lucia died; she had given her husband a white tilma (coat) as a birthday present shortly before. Juan Diego became a widower and went to live with his uncle Bernardino. He was known as an honest and righteous man, "a good Indian and a good Christian."
He had five apparitions of the Virgin Mary, from December 9 to 12, 1531, on the Mount of Tepeyac.
After the apparitions, Juan Diego lived for 17 years as a hermit, renouncing all comfort to be the guardian, on Mount Tepeyac, of the miraculous image on his tilma. He took care of the chapel and the first pilgrims who came to venerate the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He led a life of prayer and virtues. Juan Diego died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Juan Diego was beatified on April 9th, 1990 and canonized on 31 July 2002 by Pope John Paul II. He is celebrated on December 9th and proclaimed the patron saint of indigenous peoples and was chosen as the patron saint of the WYD of Panama in 2019.
On December 9th, 1531, Juan Diego went to his religious instruction classes. When he arrived at Mount Tepeyac, he heard, starting from the top, a wonderful, melodious song of various birds. When the singing stopped, he heard someone call him from the top of the mountain, "my little Juan, my little Juan Diego". He climbed up to the voice, and saw there a standing Lady, begging him to approach. She was very beautiful and majestic, her clothing shone like a sun, projecting rays. All nature was transfigured around the beautiful Lady. She said to him, "Listen, oh you, the smallest of my sons, my little Juan, where are you going? He replied, "My Lady and Queen, I am going to your house in Tlatelolco to hear the divine words that the priests teach us." The Lady added: “I am the Virgin, Saint Maria, Mother of God… I long that in this place a house may be built for me to exalt and give to all my divine love, help, compassion and protection. For I am the most merciful Mother, yours and that of all the men of this Earth. I will listen to their complaints to remedy them and heal their miseries, their sorrows, their pains. For this to happen, go to the bishop's palace in Mexico City to let him know of my great desire to have a house here. You will also tell him everything you have seen and heard. You will be rewarded with your sorrow after you have passed on my word. ”
Juan Diego hurried to pass on these words to the bishop, the Franciscan Don Fray Juan de Zumarraga. He was introduced after a long wait and made known the words and wills of the Lady of Heaven to the bishop, describing precisely everything he had seen. The unconvinced bishop asked him to come back another time to calmly resume this story. Juan Diego was very saddened, and the same day returned to the place of the apparition.
The Virgin was there, in the same place, Juan Diego prostrated himself and told him of his visit to the bishop and that he had not been believed. He humbly apologized to the Lady for having failed and for having been able to displease her; he proposed that she find a better and more noble messenger. The Virgin replied that she wanted him to carry out this mission and asked him to return the next day to the bishop to repeat his wishes. This is what the man did, standing before the bishop, he wept and repeated the message of the Virgin, but the bishop was still not convinced and asked for a sign. In addition, he had him followed and questioned relatives to see who this man was. However, the men sent to spy on him suddenly lost track of him and, furious, they decided to attack him as soon as they saw him again and told the bishop that everything was a lie. Having again brought everything to the Virgin, she told him to come back the next day to receive the sign to bear to the bishop.
On December 11th, Juan Diego did not come back because he found his uncle very ill and about to die, and he left in a hurry the next day to look for a priest to give him the last rites. Passing by the place of the apparition, he made a detour so as not to be delayed in his urgent quest by the Lady's request. Taking the other way, Juan Diego nevertheless saw the Lady coming down the hill to meet him. She asked him where he was going and he explained the reason for his haste and asked the Lady to give him time and then he would come back. To which Our Lady replied, "It is nothing that anguishes you, that strikes you, that neither your face nor your heart are troubled and do not fear this disease or any other disease, be without anguish. Am I not here who am your Mother? Aren't you under my shadow and my protection? Am I not the source of your joy in life? […] May your uncle's illness not afflict you because he will not die of what he has, he is already healed. Indeed, he would later learn that it was at this precise moment that his uncle was healed.
Juan Diego, shocked by these words, asked the Virgin to bring the sign to the bishop immediately. The Virgin sent him to the top of the hill to pick all kinds of flowers he saw to make a bouquet. He discovered magnificent flowers with exquisite scents did do not grow in this part of the world, which furthermore was in the middle of winter, much less on top of this stony hill where there were only thistles and thorns. He brought the bouquet to the Virgin, who took the flowers and put them back in Juan Diego's coat, telling him to carry them to the bishop, that they were the sign. When he arrived at the bishop's house, he was made to wait a very long time and an attempt was made to take the flowers from him, in vain, for whenever they were thought to have been seized, they appeared to be sewn or woven to the garment. Finally, the bishop brought in Juan Diego who opened his coat, all the magnificent flowers of Castile spread at his feet and on the tilma one sees the image of the Virgin Mary as she is still today. The bishop and those present fell on their knees, crying and asking forgiveness for not believing.
After having kept the sight of him for a whole night, the bishop was shown the place where the Virgin wanted to see a church built, and then Juan Diego was again followed to his uncle's house. He was found in perfect health, and he told of having seen exactly the same Lady, come to heal him and explain to him where his nephew was. She had also told him that her image would be called "The Most Holy Mary of Guadalupe".
Then, the construction of the church began, her image was exposed to the reverence of all and the crowds flocked to contemplate the miraculous image.
The devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is immense all over the world, as she announced in her message to Juan Diego, she came to care for her children, their worries, sorrows and burdens, and her intercession is very powerful. Many prayers are dedicated to her.
Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Juan Diego
O Saint Juan Diego, during the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, you, a humble shepherd, were chosen as Her messenger.
Your complete loyalty in this task is still visible today, through the miraculous image that the Virgin left on the tilma.
Intercede for me, I beg you, so that I may have your filial trust in the Mother of God and that my heart may respond to her maternal inspirations.
Through a simple Faith, through obedience and love, I hope one day to be able to unite with you and share the happiness that never ends, where our Heavenly Mother reigns in the Glory of her Son. Amen. Amen.