It was early in the morning, but the street already swarmed with people and food vendors. After ten minutes of walking, I arrived at the side entrance of the basilica. There was a large square before the main church. Actually, there were a few churches in the area besides the basilica that houses the original cloak on which the image of Our Lady is imprinted.

The place where the basilica now stands was a holy place long before the Spanish conquered Mexico. It is called the Hill of Tepeyac. At the site there was a temple devoted to the mother goddess called Tonantzin. Later, the Spanish destroyed the temple and built a nearby chapel. But the destruction of the temple couldn’t prevent the natives from pouring into the site.

Ten years after the Spanish conquered Mexico, a local peasant named Juan Diego, who had recently converted to Christianity, had a vision said to be Our Lady in the same area, who asked for a chapel to be built in the place. Diego reported what Our Lady had requested to the Franciscan bishop, but his account left the bishop doubtful. In fact, he required proof to corroborate what the native had reported.

Juan Diego went back to the hill where the vision had happened, and asked Our Lady to give him proof that she was really the Virgin Mary. This time, Our Lady asked Juan Diego to pluck some flowers and take them to the bishop. This would prove the truthfulness of the vision.

He did as Our Lady required; he picked some roses and wrapped them with his cloak. Then he hastened away to the bishop. When he was in the presence of the bishop, he unfolded his cloak. The roses fell onto the floor, and the image of the Virgin Mary was shining on the cloak. From then on, Juan Diego’s cloak was guarded with care by the Franciscan friars, and a chapel was built in the place of the apparition.

(Excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History)

Ettore Grillo, author of:

A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind


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