The story of La Vírgen De Guadalupe is an iconic tale. On December 12 of 1531 Mexico, a shepherd named Juan Diego saw a vision of a tan Virgin Mary in Aztec garb. 

The vision asked him (in his native Nahuatl) to build a temple in her honor. He did, and today the Basílica de Guadalupe receives 20 million visitors yearly.

There’s no doubt that La Vírgen De Guadalupe is a symbol of Catholicism for Mexicans everywhere. But this origin story points to colonial roots. 

Experts believe that Juan Diego’s vision never happened, and that Spanish colonizers made up that story to encourage indigenous people to convert to Catholicism. Now, Mexico is over 80% Catholic. 

Nonetheless, La Vírgen has also provided Mexicans and other Latinos with hope, and continues to represent Mexico’s Aztec and colonial past and present. 

La Vírgen is now ingrained in Mexican culture. Her image is displayed on murals, clothing and businesses. Her feast day on December 12, is celebrated with parades, mariachis at early mass and pilgrimages to her Basílica. Regardless of the intentions behind the origins of “La Vírgen Morena,” she has been a vision of hope and a source of comfort for millions.