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The Poor Old Virgen of Guadalupe.



     I once visited THE shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Spain. It is a beautiful old monastery in the Sierra de Guadalupe. After Montserrat, it is the second most important of Spain's shrines to the Virgin. The name "Guadalupe" is Arabic, meaning "hidden river". The pious legend goes that a shepherd found the image, reputedly carved by St. Luke, after the Arab invaders had been ejected from the area. Alfonso XI founded the monastery to fulfill a vow he had made before defeating the Moors at El Salado. It was a favorite shrine of the conquistarores, who received there the permission to sail to the New World. Hernan Cortes spent nine days praying there before his departure.
     Following the conquest of Mexico the shrine of Guadalupe was established and the legend of Juan Diego invented in imitation of the Spanish legend. Ironically, the legend made the shrine the pilgrimage site of Mexican Indians, so the Spaniards moved their veneration to the now-forgotten Virgen de los Remedios.
     Now the real Virgen de Guadalupe is forgotten in Mexico. She was not mentioned during the Pope's visit. The Mexican version has become the symbol of Mexican religious nationalism. Following the Pope's visit, large copies of her image were distributed to all the dioceses of Mexico, to all the countries of the Americas, to the Philippines (memories of the Spanish Empire!) and to Spain itself! I wonder if the two Virgins there are on speaking terms.

Ronald Hilton - 01/30/99


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