By Diana Alcantara
Every Dec. 12, those devoted to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe take the time to pause from the business of daily life to remember and honor the miracle that happened almost 500 years ago.
It is believed that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a humble Aztec named Juan Diego on Dec. 9, 1531, ten years after the Aztec Empire fell to the Spanish Conquistadores. It was on a hill covered with nopal cactus, by the name of Tepeyac in what is now Mexico City. For many years Tepeyac was a worship site for Aztec Mother Goddess, Tonantzin. Her apparition included a request that Juan Diego go to the bishop and ask that a church be built at the top of the hill. Juan Diego went to the bishop, but the bishop was not convinced and required that Juan Diego return to Tepeyac and bring proof of the miracle.
Juan Diego returned to the hill on Dec. 12, and La Virgen gave Juan Diego the proof that he needed – roses. Juan Diego filled his tilma (cloak) with the roses and ran back to the bishop. When he opened his tilma, the bishop fell to his knees.
It was not the roses that convinced him, it was the image of her that had been imprinted onto the cloth. To this day, the Virgen de Guadalupe is a national and religious symbol of peace and hope to the Mexican people.
The tilma hangs in the Basilica that sits next to the hill still known as Tepeyac. In 1999, Pope John Paul II declared her the Patroness of the Americas. Here in Carbondale, members of the Saint Mary of the Crown Catholic Church gathered along the Rio Grande Bike Trail for their own pilgrimage.
They donned traditional dress, carried the statue on their shoulder, played music and sang her devotional song, and offered the folkloric dance. All this graced the same route that brought supplies, moved coal and potatoes, and carried new settlers to the Roaring Valley over 100 years ago.