December 12th is the Dìa de la Virgen de Guadalupe when tens of thousands of people will travel to Mexico City or celebrate across Mexico, United States and the rest of Latin America the day the Virgin appeared to the Mexican people. More specifically, to Juan Diego. This is a story of miracles and faith which has marked a change in the history or Mexico.
According to the earliest reliable story, Juan Diego was on the Tepeyac Hill when he came upon an apparition of a “maiden” whom he soon came to recognize as the Virgin Mary. He told the archbishop about the apparition, but he did not believe Juan Diego. The church wanted proof!
Upon returning to Mary and sharing this with her, Juan Diego was instructed to climb to the top of the hill to gather flowers to bring back to the bishop. Reaching the crest of the hill, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, which were neither in season nor native to the region.
The Blessed Mother arranged the flowers herself in Juan’s tilma ( a sort of cloak) and instructed him to open it only upon return to the bishop.
When Juan Diego arrived back and opened his cloak, the flowers fell to the floor and left on the surface of the tilma was the image that’s come to be known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe”. The rest… is history.
The fact that the Virgen de Guadalupe not only spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, but appeared to be wearing the dress of an Aztec princess sparked millions of conversions to the Catholic faith in just under seven years.
Image on cloak (tilma) fibers are still intact
The image remains, and scientists who have studied the image insist there was no technique used beforehand to treat the surface. The surface bearing the image is reportedly like silk to the touch, while the unused portion of the tilma remains coarse.
What’s more, experts in infrared photography, studying the tilma in the late 1970s, determined that there were no brush strokes, as if the image was slapped onto the surface all at once.
Image on tilma has outlived all other duplicate images
One of the first things skeptics say about the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe is that it somehow had to be “painted”. Yet in every attempt to replicate the image, while the original never seems to fade, the duplicates have deteriorated over a short time.
Human body characteristics
In 1979, when Callahan, the Florida biophysicist, was analyzing the tilma using infrared technology, he apparently also discovered that the tilma maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the same as that of a living person.
With the images of the magnified eyes, the scientist was reportedly able to identify as many as 13 individuals in both eyes at different proportions, just as the human eye would reflect an image.
It appeared to be a snapshot of the very moment Juan Diego unfurled the tilma before the archbishop.
Over the centuries, two separate events could have potentially harmed the tilma:
In 1785, a worker was cleaning the glass encasement of the image when he accidentally spilled strong nitric acid solvent onto a large portion of the image itself.
The image of the Virgen de Guadalupe and the rest of the tilma, which should have been eaten away almost instantly by the spill, reportedly self-restored over the next 30 days, and it remains unscathed to this day, aside from small stains on the parts not bearing the image.
In 1921, an anti-clerical activist hid a bomb containing 29 sticks of dynamite in a pot of roses. When the bomb exploded, everything around it was ruined, but the tilma and its glass case remained fully intact.