December 12th is the day Mexicans commemorate the anniversary of the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe in which an apparition resembling the Virgin Mary is alleged to have revealed herself to an Aztec peasant named Juan Diego who was traveling by a hill located in Tepeyac near Mexico city.
The story goes that Diego was visited and told by the Virgin to go to the Bishop of Mexico and tell him she wanted a church built on the ground he encountered her.
However, Juan Diego claimed he had a vision of her but no one else, including the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, saw the vision or was able to verify what Diego saw or the event that occured itself.
Despite the unverifiability of the story itself, the Roman Catholic Church erected a shrine upon the site of the alleged occurence and the Virgin of Guadalupe Basilica is second to the Vatican in terms of visitors which number in the hundreds of millions.
It is obvious that the tale of Mexico's matriarchial saint is based on other apparition tales with similar themes.
For example, in the Cáceres Province of the Extremadura region of Castile, Spain a shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe still exists. At the beginning of the 14th Century, a Spanish shepherd claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him and ordered him to tell priests to dig at the site of his discovery.
Clergy who excavated the site claimed discovering a hidden statue and built a small shrine around it which later evolved into a monastery.
The image of the Mexican virgin painted on a shroud and statue of the Spanish virgin both alleged to have not been made with human hands are definitely indications of myth manufacture.
According to Joe Nickell in his book Looking for a Miracle, the story of the Mexican virgin was dated in 1531. Yet the shroud the Virgin appears on and, to this day, is still present at the Mexican Guadalupe Virgin's Shrine is dated as early as 1556.
Nickell goes on to state that during an independent review of the shroud containing the Virgin's image, sketch lines as well as cracking and flaking all along the vertical seam of the image were observed that pass along the original of mantle, neck and robe.
He also points out during a Church investigation of the shroud, a priest named Juan de Maseques admitted that the Guadalupe Virgin image was painted on the original shroud by Aztec painter Marcos Cipac.
In his book Joe Nickell cites author Jody Brandt Smith in which she points out the original shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe is located on the hill of Tepeyac directly in front of the temple of Aztec Virgin goddess of Corn and the Earth Tonantzin.
The Mexican Virgin tale was obviously borrowed from the Spanish Guadalupe story and grafting or syncretizing the Aztec goddess was done in order to win over Aztec Indians during the Spanish conquest of Mexico which gave the perception of ecclasiastical legitimacy to the Spaniards and the Catholic Church.