Proofs of Mexican Indian Juan Diego's Existence

Author: ZENIT



Disclosures from Commission Studying Historicity of Guadalupe Event

Due to statements by Fr. William Schulenburg, former Abbot of the Basilica of Guadalupe, denying the historicity of Juan Diego, the Indian who saw Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Vatican has sponsored a detailed study, the results of which are now avilable. Fr. Schulenburg stated that the canonization of Juan Diego would be ridiculous as there is no proof of his existence.

This statement, made on various occasions by the former Abbot, has been made for ages by other personalities. On April 18, 1794, Spanish academic Juan Bautista Muñoz, maintained for the first time that the Guadalupe event lacked historical basis. If such claims are true, they would mean that on May 6, 1990, John Paul II beatified a ghost, created by excitable Mexican religiosity, not to mention the fact that the Guadalupe apparitions themselves would lose all credibility.

Professor Fr. Fidel Gonzalez Fernandez, who teaches Church History at the Pontifical Urban and Gregorian Universities, and is recognized as one of the leading experts in the field, was named president of the Vatican Commission, which engaged some 30 researchers of various nationalities. The Commission made a decisive contribution not only to justify Juan Diego’s historicity, but also to shed new light on Mexico’s history. Fr. Gonzalez discussed the results of this work during an extraordinary congress held in the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints on October 28, 1998, obtaining positive success in resolving the doubts presented by the historical dimension.

Perhaps one of the most original works of Fr. Gonzalez, who was assisted in his research by other members of the Commission, such as Eduardo Chavez Sanchez and Jose Luis Guerrero Rosado (Cf. "The Meeting of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego," Editorial Porrua, Mexico, 1999, pp. 564) is the presentation of 27 Guadalupe Indian documents and testimonies and 8 of mixed Spanish-Indian origin. Outstanding among them is "El Nican Mopohua" and the so-called "Escalada" Manuscript.

"El Nican Mopohua," written by Indian Antonio Valeriano, is a singular testimony of the process of transculturation of Christianity in New Spain. However, the question regarding the historicity of its content and the degree of literary embellishment or cultural background, continues to be vehemently debated. Each word of the 218 verses of "Nican Mopohua" has meaning within the Nahuas philosophy and mythology as well as in Christian philosophy. Being a literary text, it has no historical value; however, it offers the testimony of the Indian cosmovision of the time, something far more important for that culture than a dated chronicle would have been.

Moreover, its author—an Indian of the pure Tecpaneca race—was a witness, as he lived between 1520 and 1606. Historians assert that he was a nephew of emperor Montezuma. In 1533, at 13 years of age, which testifies to the impressive work carried out by the missionaries, this Indian already began studies at the Holy Cross School of Tlatelolco, founded by Bishop Juan de Zumarraga. He was, therefore, one of the first Indians to speak Latin and governor of Azcapotzalco for 35 years. He was 11 years old in 1531, the year of the apparitions, and 28 in 1548, when Juan Diego died.

The "Escalada" Manuscript, signed by Indian Antonio Valeriano and Spanish Friar Bernardino de Sahagun, which has been recently discovered, is a direct testimony of Juan Diego’s historicity, as it has a type "death certificate" of the Indian.

Given that historical documents related to the 20 years that followed the Guadalupe apparitions have not been found to date, those who are opposed say that this documentary "silence" is proof that they did not exist. What is forgotten, however, is that many Indian sources were destroyed, as two indisputable authorities of earliest times—Friar Bernardino de Sahagun and Geronimo de Mendieta declare. Moreover, one must not ignore other historical facts like the fire of the Mexico City Archives in 1692 and the so-called "paper crisis" that overwhelmed New Spain for a long time and made necessary—as normal procedure, the recycling of used paper, including of documents in archives, for new purposes either in business or writing.

Unanswered Questions

Opponents of the apparitions, however, cannot explain with historical elements some decisive aspects of Mexican history without keeping in mind the miracle of Guadalupe. As, for example, the time when after a dramatic conquest and three painful divisions and clashes in the heart of the Nahuatl political realm, a hermitage was built immediately, dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the title Guadalupe on the hill of Tepeyac, a significant location of the Indian world.

Nor do they explain how Guadalupe became a sign of a new religious history and a crossroads between two worlds which, until that moment, were in dramatic opposition.

The historicity of the Blessed has been so well established that Fr. Fidel Gonzalez, the president of the Commission established by the Roman Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is studying Juan Diego’s social origins. It is not known whether he was a noble or "poor" Indian. This confusion is caused by the Spanish translations of "Nican Mopohua."

There are many other historical proofs of Juan Diego’s existence as, for example, the oral tradition, decisive source in studying Mexican peoples, whose culture is primarily oral. This tradition, in such cases tends to follow well established rules and, in the case of Guadalupe, it always confirms the historical and spiritual figure of Juan Diego.ZE99121909

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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