This religious complex, the second most-visited one on the planet after the Vatican, holds one of Mexico’s most important religious treasures—the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Discover it!
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A Little History
In pre-Hispanic times, the arid countryside of Cerro del Tepeyac was covered with thorns and brush, and the goddess known by three names—Chalchihuitlicue, Matlalcueye, and Tonantzin—was worshipped here. For the Mexica people, Tonantzin was the mother of the gods, and people journeyed long distances to take part in celebrations in her honor. During Cortés’s siege of the city of Tenochtitlan, Capitan Gonzalo de Sandoval camped with his army in this place, called Tepeaquilla by the Spanish. Then on December 9, 1531, a dark-skinned Virgin appeared here to Juan Diego, an indigenous man, giving rise to the area’s magical history.
The town that grew at the base of the large hill during the colonial period rose to the level of villa, according to royal decrees, between 1733 and 1748, and acquired its own government. On February 12, 1828, it then became a city named Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the poor of Mexico City would come here to spend a day in the countryside. La Villa de Guadalupe played an important role in Mexico’s political history when peace treaties between Mexico and United States were signed in the Basilica’s sacristy on February 2, 1848.
Manuel Rivera Cambas described this place in the last third of the 19th century in this way: “On the salty shores of the lake in Texcoco and a league from the capital, is the church, constantly visited by crowds of devout and curious travelers; two boulevards lead to the villa, one of stone (Misterios) built on pastureland covered with water most of the year, and the other dirt (Guadalupe), shaded by two rows of white poplars, whose dejected look is in line with the dryness of Tepeyac and the other hills and dark hues of the horizon. The urban train station has beautified this city that grows and prospers more every day…”
Today, Villa de Guadalupe welcomes almost 20 million devotees and pilgrims every year and is one of the obligatory stops for all visitors to Mexico City.
Voices and Stories from the Past
Before being executed in 1815, José María y Morelos y Pavón’s last wish was to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Capilla del Pocito. Moreover, the Santuario de Guadalupe has been visited by such figures as John F. Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle. Pope John Paul II came here several times during his pontificate.