MEXICO CITY, Aug. 1, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The home of Juan Diego, the first Indian saint of America, has become an important pilgrimage center, especially for Mexico’s Indian peoples.
In December 1531, 10 years after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on several occasions to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (eagle that talks) on the hill of Tepeyac.
She entrusted to him the task of asking the bishop of Mexico to build a church in her honor.
That Church, the Basilica of Guadalupe, receives between 12-17 million pilgrims a year, masking it the most visited pilgrimage center in the world.
But for the past few weeks, Juan Diego’s home in Cuautitlan, just over three miles north of Mexico City has received some 10,000 pilgrims. They regard the Indian visionary as an effective intercessor to obtain favors from God.
Juan Diego’s home became a center of pilgrimage especially after his beatification on May 6, 1990.
Last weekend, for example, 5,000 Catholics visited “El Cerrito,” as the saint’s home is known. The city square near the location of his house displays a giant statue in his image, and has a church and an auditorium where meditations are held on Juan Diego’s life.
History recounts that after the apparitions, Juan Diego left his home in Cuautitlan and went to live on Tepeyac hill, where the Basilica of Guadalupe is located.
Father Miguel Cortés, vicar of “El Cerrito,” explained that the pilgrims who arrive at the site, often after long and difficult journeys, appeal to Juan Diego as a last resort to ask God for help with family problems or serious illnesses.
“They take home anything they can from here, a stone or a grain of sand,” the priest said. “It is all a question of faith.”