That the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe remained on the cloak; this rough handmade garment over 460 years is a mystery. The normal lifespan for the fabric which had been made from agave, would be from 10-20 years. This incredible image has survived unscathed by 166 years of unprotected display and reverent touching, the explosion of a bomb left in a nearby vase, and in the 1800’s, silversmiths repairing the frame, spilled nitric acid which covered nearly two thirds of the cloth.
Over the centuries scientists and experts from around the world have inspected and tested the fabric, but have never detected a trace of ink or paint.
The Indians who saw the image felt her blue green outer cloak told them that she was an ambassador, coming with messages from the most powerful of gods, the sun. The stars on her cloak formed the constellations as they appeared in the sky on December 12, 1531. At her waist was a black sash, as was worn by all pregnant women at that time. Most important of all, unlike the paintings and the statues in the churches, this messenger from God had skin the color of their own, a coppery brown.
In recent years, with the invention of more powerful microscopic instruments, study of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe has continued, with more and more discoveries. First it was found that the highlight in her downcast right eye is a perfect profile image of Juan Diego. Years later, using computer imaging, scientists found as many as 18 persons in the eyes of the Virgin, one very Ghandi-like, another a black woman, and more.
All the science in the world however cannot begin to understand the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, in Latin America and in the United States. For this understanding, we must look at the people’s devotion to her, their relationship with her.
The devotion to Guadalupe transcends any form of religious scope to become a symbol of Mexican nationalism and patriotism. Guadalupe creates a bond, a sense of being Mexican, of profound pride in being Mexican. Her influence crosses all borders and boundaries. She transcends the normal division of social strata found yet today in Mexico, and her devotees are the rich and humble, the industrialized and the farmer, the educated and the illiterate, the religious and the cynical. Her altar is a glitter of lights, roses and hope, the Mexican love for her is an endless hymn, the Mexican’s contact with her is hourly, and she is the Mother of Mexico, the Queen of the Americas, many feel she IS Mexico.
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