MEXICO CITY, JULY 23, 2002 (Zenit.org).- There are three decisive proofs for the historical existence of Blessed Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, a Spanish Jesuit notes.
Father Xavier Escalada, a researcher of the Guadalupe apparitions, points to the proofs which confirm the existence of the Indian visionary, whom John Paul II will proclaim a saint on July 31.
The proofs are: the copper plaque of Coosawattee, found in a community of Spanish origin in the northern part of the U.S. state of Georgia; the stone found in the Church of St. James Tlatelolco, in Mexico; and the 1548 Manuscript, or the so-called Escalada Manuscript.
The Spanish priest talked about the evidence last Thursday during a presentation of his books “Guadalupe, Art and Splendor” and “Juan Diego, Art and Spirit.” The presentation was attended by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop primate of Mexico.
In May 1996, Guillermo Schulenburg Prado, then abbot of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, publicly cast doubt on the existence of Juan Diego, without backing his affirmations with historical arguments. In previous years, Mexican intellectuals also made statements to this effect.
Juan Diego saw the Blessed Virgin in 1531. After the apparitions, he dedicated the rest of his life to repeating the story. His burial place is unknown.
The first proof, the copper plaque that appeared in Georgia, was placed on the chest of a child who died at an early age. U.S. archaeologists came to several conclusions: It was made in Michoacan and taken to the American Union during an expedition of Mateo del Sauz, in 1560.
“With infrared, ultraviolet and X-rays, the figure of three personages was recovered: Juan Diego, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and a representation of the devil, proper to the imagery of the period,” the Jesuit researcher explained.
According to Father Escalada, the second proof is the stone of Tlatelolco, where Juan Diego’s name has been written with a chisel and hammer. The following numbers can be seen: 1-5-8, the fourth number is blurred. However, the priest believes that the number that is missing is a zero. Thus the relic acquires meaning with the apparitions of the Virgin that occurred in Mexico in the 16th century.
The Escalada Manuscript proves, beyond all doubt, the existence of Juan Diego, according to the Jesuit. The manuscript was given by an anonymous donor to the Jesuit scholar when the latter was preparing a new version of the Guadalupe Encyclopedia. The importance of the document lies in the quantity of historical data it contains, both handwritten and pictorial.
“At first glance, the manuscript, made of deer skin, revealed the number 1548 written on the upper part,” Father Escalada said. “With amazing clarity one can observe two of the four meetings that Juan Diego and [the Virgin of] Guadalupe had. All the arrangements we always imagined are there.”
This document, the oldest in existence on the Virgin of Guadalupe, has three inscriptions in the Nahuatl language: “Also in 1531 … Cuauhtlatoatzin saw the beloved little mother, our pride and joy, of Guadalupe in Mexico”; “Cuauhtlatoatzin died with dignity”; glyph and drawing: “Judge Anton Valeriano.”
The document depicts the double scene of the summit of Tepeyac and the apparition in the plain, with the flowers for the evidence requested by Bishop Juan de Zumárraga. The Blessed Virgin appears with all the elements she has today. Antonio Valeriano’s glyph is identical to the one already known of the Aubin Manuscript. The Indian name of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin is mentioned twice.
Father Escalada said that, in the last part of the document, one can see the signature of Friar Bernardino de Sahagún, studied by Charles E. Dibble of the University of Utah. Dibble is the expert who granted the certificate of authenticity that later was ratified in Mexico by the Attorney General’s Office, the Bank of Mexico, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.