Should we call her Our Lady of Coatlaxopeuh or Our Lady of Guadalupe? In my view, Our Lady was extremely clear. This apparition was not meant “for natives only” but also for the Spaniards causing trouble to Bishop Zumárraga, and also for those who would deny the natives their humanity and the grace of the Sacraments. In fact, Our Lady’s message was meant to reach the whole world—something we consider in depth later in the book Guadalupe A River Of Light. The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe From The First Century To Our Days.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was very dear to the Spanish knights and to the whole of Spain. The Mother of Extremadura and the Protectress of Spain was teaching the Spanish conquerors that she was also the Mother of the Mexican natives. Their two races had to become one race, one nation, under one Mother, one language, one King, and One God and Savior.
Juan Diego reports the name of Our Lady as “Guadalupe” and so does Juan Bernardino, and Antonio Valeriano and later on, multiple contemporary sources. Notice also that most of that business about changing the name of the advocation comes from revisionists, Marxists, Indigenists, etc. the usual crowd of dissidents but on the other side, we have various reliable written testimonies—two of them from the visionaries who saw and heard Our Lady face to face.
Those in favor of “Guadalupe” are in agreement with almost five centuries of the living tradition of the Church in this matter but the revisionists are telling us that it was all a misunderstanding, that Our Lady actually said, “Coatlaxopeuh”—meaning “She who crushes the snake” in Nahuatl. It is worth pointing out that the serpent is absent both in the vision of Juan Diego and also in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Although the snake is present in many other images of the Virgin Mary, it is most conspicuously absent in the image given to the Mexicans. That should be sufficient to dismiss any argument in favor of “Coatlaxopeuh” as the original name.
Mary of Nazareth never instructed anyone to call her that way in Mexico. Coatlaxopeuh certainly is an attribute of our Lady when translated to our language and Christian imagery but Coatlaxopeuh was first an attribute of both Coatlique Toniatzin, the Mother Earth of the Aztecs, and also of the demon Huitzilopochtli the sworn enemy of Quetzalcoatl the feathered serpent. Imagine per absurdum if she had appeared to some other saint in Roman times saying: “I am Venus” because that name is connected in Latin to venerari (“to honor, to favor”) and venia (“grace, favor”)—Would that have been right? Those who espouse that view assume the Nahuatl translator and the Bishop were so simple and irresponsible as to supplant the allegedly given pagan name for one sounding more familiar to their ears.
The revisionists also argue that Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino could not pronounce Spanish sounds for the “g” or the “d” because they don’t exist in Nahuatl—as if it was impossible for two grown men to learn new sounds! Consider Antonio Valeriano de Azcapotzalco who at one time spoke only Nahuatl: later he learned Spanish, Latin, and Greek! And then he studied Roman Jurisprudence and became a Judge for the Spanish Crown! So much for the so-called dumb Natives who allegedly were genetically incapable of learning two new sounds! That argument is so presumptuous it borders on racism! Consider also that Our Lady—who did all kinds of extraordinary things in that miraculous octave of the Immaculate Conception in 1531—could have easily taught them to retain and pronounce her name supernaturally. After all, it’s just a “g” and a “d”—they did not have to learn theology or civil engineering!
Remember this was the same Mary that appeared in Fatima to three Portuguese children in 1917: Ten-year-old Lucia, nine-year-old Francisco, and seven-year-old Jacinta. Mary of Nazareth as Our Lady of Fatima trusted those small children with a message that the world had to obey to save the souls of billions. Does anyone believe that the children of Fatima could forget the message, perhaps because they were not used to dealing with the complex abstractions of history or theology? We are dealing with God’s miracles here not with some forgetful human manager!
Mexicans to this day pronounce the Spanish “g” as an aspired “h” when followed by a diphthong (i.e. Sp. Guadalupe, agua, Paraguay) and so do most people in Central and South America. In fact, the same sound is present in the word “Nahuatl” or “Macehualtin”—Peninsular Spaniards have a more Germanic way of pronouncing the “g” however. So it was no big deal for Juan Diego to say “Huah-dah-loo-peh” using the aspired “h” he was more familiar with. That eliminates one of those “impossible to learn” sounds. Next is the “d” sound. In Spanish, the “d” sounds always like a soft “t”, a sound pronounced by extending the tip of one’s tongue a fraction of an inch forward under the upper front teeth. For someone who never had to soften a “t”, it may be a difficult thing to do at first but not impossible.
I have observed that people lacking upper front teeth (a common thing in the Argentine countryside where I grew up) often pronounce the “t” noticeably softer. Even if Juan Diego mispronounced the name as “Huah-tah-loo-peh” it would have been close enough for any Spaniard to get it by approximation. That is why I believe the theory for calling our Lady using the Nahuatl word “Coatlaxopeuh” is so weak that it does not deserve serious consideration.