I am black and beautiful,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
because the Sun has gazed on me.
Song of Songs 1:5-7 (NRSVACE)
The divine commandment clearly states that one should not throw pearls before swine. In spite of that, I find some pearls in my mailbox from time to time. Not long ago, one reader who is obviously not happy with what I usually write about, told me to stop publishing “stupid stuff” although he acknowledged said stuff to be well written, sometimes at “genius level” (?) I must admit I was flabbergasted. There is so much stupid stuff written these days that to get special recognition is truly high flattery. At least, I took it that way. Finally, I am being noticed.
And talking about stupid stuff, I was led to remember something that great intellectual, now sitting at Saint Peter’s in Rome, said a few years ago when visiting Mexico. He advised the locals to call Our Lady of Guadalupe by a different name, like “Our Lady of Tepeyac” or “Our Lady Coatlxupe (some times spelled Coatlaxopeuh)” or something like that. I am quoting by memory here but the general gist was that “Our Lady of Guadalupe” was a misnomer, a mistake generated when the Spaniards heard the word “Coatlxupe” (meaning “serpent-crusher” in Nahuatl, I’ve been told) and associated it with the more familiar Virgin of Guadalupe. Our Lady of Guadalupe was well known to the conquistadors coming from Spain, more so to those in Extremadura region where Hernan Cortés and other members of his expeditionary force were from.
Is that true? Did Our Lady refer to herself as “serpent-crusher” when talking in the Nahuatl language to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin and to his uncle Juan Bernardino? The short answer is: NO. The long response I would give is: “Stop spreading that nonsense!” I don’t care who you are or how high in the hierarchy of the pachamama church you are: Our Lady of Guadalupe chose her name or title for very clear reasons. It’s not a long story while it is a bit too long for a blog post. But dismay not! You can read the whole explanation in my book Guadalupe a River of Light – The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe From The First Century to Our Days. The book is inexpensive but write to me if you can’t afford a copy. A local priest recently pilfered one from me (it is called “holy eternal borrowing”) but don’t commit a sin! Ask and you shall receive.
A Catholic friend from the United States informed me:
“Carlos, I first heard about the ‘Coatlxupe’ nonsense when we lived in Tacoma, Washington about 20 years ago — the libs out there were pushing that “replacement” name for Our Lady of Guadalupe. I thought it was terrible.”
It is certainly terrible for many reasons but first of all because it gravely insults Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of Extremadura and Empress of the Americas.
I thought I had fulfilled my duties when I published the book and meticulously explained how –without a doubt– all this Coatlxupe nonsense was not only wrong but it is not even mentioned by anyone until modern times. When I heard a podcast by Anthony Stein (of Return to Tradition. See minute 2:39) repeating the error I figured it was time to try to correct the problem. I wrote to Mr. Stein but I never received a response. The mistake may have been corrected since. So, here is a brief account of why Our Lady of Guadalupe chose to be called that way and the very bad implications of using the word “Coatlxupe” even to associate it with Our Blessed Mother’s mission in Mexico. This has quite a few parts. Make sure to read this slowly and take in the various threads and meanings. There are two previous articles in this blog describing the basics of the Aztec pantheon and other useful info: The Eagle and the Serpent and Mother Earth & Co. Make sure to read them so you can better understand the complexities of this unparalleled apparition of Our Blessed Mother in Mexico.
A dizzyingly complex story
Bona Dea was a Roman goddess representing all female virtue and she was represented carrying something signifying abundance (graces) and in control of a snake. Could you imagine the Virgin Mary appearing to some Roman in the Aventine Hill (where the Bona Dea temple was located) and using one of the many titles of the goddess to identify herself? I don’t think so.
Well, Or Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on Tepeyac Hill. The temple of the local mother-earth goddess used to be there until the Spanish razed it to the ground due to the horrible diabolic practices there performed. The goddess in question was the demon Coatlicue. According to Aztec mythology she gave life to all the gods and also dispatched their own children to the netherworld in a never ending cycle representing the ages of nature as understood by the Aztec religion. Coatlicue is the Aztec version of the Pachamama.
Coatlicue was not represented as a nice nurturing mother but as a terrifying, brutal being, one that no one would like to encounter ever. Coatlicue Toniatzin was often represented with her head cut off. Her arms are two snakes; she has the legs of an eagle because she is the mother of the sun Tonatiuh whose image was a rising eagle. Coatlicue’s umbilical cord is shown feeding the ground from where all living things come. Her dress is made of snakes. Coatlicue means, “the one dressed in a skirt made of snakes.”
The Aztec worshipped the demon Huitzilopochtli, one of the bloodthirsty sons of Coatlicue who demanded constant human sacrifices. The arch-enemy of Huitzilopochtli was Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent. Quetzalcoatl did not like human sacrifices. He would rather require his devotees to release butterflies or live doves instead. In a strange parallelism he was believed to be conceived miraculously when mother Coatlicue was accidentally impregnated by a feather.
Quetzalcoatl had left Mexico in ancient times but promised to return and “end all human sacrifices” and begin a reign of peace. Does this sound to you as suspiciously similar to Jesus promised return to put an end to the devil’s regime of oppression? Yes, it is similar. When the devil invaded this world and captured mankind through sin, he merely interrupted the plans of God. Because the devil is incapable of any original thought he simply made bad copies mimicking what he knew of what God had in store for mankind. That is why Gilgamesh, Siegfried, Viracocha, or Quetzalcoatl have some similarities to Christ and all the “mother goddesses of antiquity” have some similarity to Our Blessed Mother.
When Christ conquered sin at Calvary, the slow reconquest of the world began. When the last battle ends we will see clearly what God’s original design was. Now, we can see that the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac was an intentional act of conquest. She asked the Mexicans to build a temple dedicated to her in that hill as a witness to the power of Christ in whose name Mary was going to be the new mother of all Mexicans. Christ is thus making all things new. The miraculous image on the Tilma of Juan Diego is a representation done at the same time in a style that Europeans and Mexicans can understand and then more. Included in the image are messages for people yet unborn, those who were going to be sons of indigenous Mexicans and Europeans, a new race that is clearly depicted in Our Lady of Guadalupe’s face. In the complex parable presented to us at Tepeyac, Juan Diego is every Mexican and every man ever presented with the mystery of Christ. Our Lady of Guadalupe is herself a representation of a synthesis: She is at the same time Spanish and Mexican. She is Our Lady of Guadalupe of Extremadura, Protectress of Spain and also Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of Mexico and Empress of the Americas. The Spanish and the Mexican advocations of Our Lady clearly symbolize her intention that Mexico and Spain, the Old World and the New World would be united as one Christian realm under her special protection: One People under One God, One Lord, One Mother, One Faith
Curiously enough, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura, Spain was carved by Saint Luke during the first century (possibly in Ephesus where Luke met the Mother of Jesus to gather all the information included in his Gospel. When we read the Gospel of Luke, we hear the voice of Mary and we see with our mind’s eye what she saw with her own eyes. For some mysterious reason, Saint Luke chose to carve her image in dark wood. Saint Luke was also a painter. He is believed to have painted various icons of Our Lady, including the one venerated as Kranjska Gora, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. Considering all these little known details, I am inclined to wonder if it was Saint Luke the one charged with using Juan Diego’s tilma as a canvas to give the people of the New World their own Gospel but I digress. Consider Song of Songs 1:5-7 when you have time.
The name Guadalupe does not mean “crusher of serpent” like some are saying. A town in Spain is called that way. Our Lady appeared there to a man called Gil Cordero near the Guadalupe river. The ancient Roman name of the Guadalupe river in Spain was Flumen Lux Speculum (“a river that reflects light like a mirror.”) The origin of the word is uncertain though. Some etymologists affirm that “Guadalupe” is composed of “wad” (river), “al” (article) and “lub” (black stone) because the river carried black stones. Others suggest the alternative “Wad al lubben” (hidden river) since the Guadalupe River runs through deep gorges that hide its presence. In my modest opinion, the Arabic name most likely sounded somewhat close to the word “Guadalupe.” The modern name possibly evolved from 15th century Castilian luspejo, or aguada del espejo, meaning literally “watering hole [through, a place where animals drink] of the mirror” by apocopation to Guadalupejo, a local name that is still in use. In the name “Guadalupe” the final particle “ejo” is eliminated possibly because it carries sometimes a derogatory connotation. I am inclined to accept this last one on the basis of the similar sounds of the word “espejo” (Sp. “mirror”) and the Roman original name. [See Historia de Guadalupe by Fray Gabriel Talavera; Toledo 1597, fol. 9-11 and El Origen del nombre de Guadalupe by Arturo Alvares. Also Historia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe y Fray Francisco de San José by Germán Rubio; and Historia Universal de la Primitiva y Milagrosa Imagen de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Madrid, 1763.]
Now, the Nahuatl word “Coatlxupe” could be translated as “crusher of serpent” but NOT ONE CONTEMPORANEOUS SOURCE MENTIONS IT. There is no serpent to speak of in the miraculous image imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma. Or is it? We shall see that later and I will get a lot of flak for that!
Many believe that the Spaniards heard “Guadalupe” when Juan Diego said “Coatlxupe.” If that was true, the participants in the miraculous apparition of Our Lady in Mexico had plenty of time to correct the mistake but they did not. The name Guadalupe remained because Our Lady wanted to give Mexicans the same dignity of the Spaniards who were already her children—in spite of the awful conduct of some individuals among them. Those revisionists who favor “Coatlxupe” arguing from Indigenism do not realize that—used in that manner—“Coatlxupe” is a divisive term, pitting native Mexicans against the European. The term “Guadalupe” achieves the opposite very Catholic effect by uniting both races into a new one: under that name, both the Spanish from Extremadura and the Mexican Natives are now one; Mary of Guadalupe is telling them clearly: “You are brothers born of the same Mother.” Please remember that Spain had been a unified nation only for a few decades. One could argue that both modern Spain and Mexico were born almost at the same time in history.
The author Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa, an American scholar of Chicano cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory, favors “Coatlxupe” as a possible American etymology for “Guadalupe” arguing—almost five centuries after the facts—that since the two words sound very similar, the Spanish heard “Coatlxupe” as the equivalent of Guadalupe, as in Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Extremadura. Borderlands – La Frontera: The New Mestiza, by Gloria Anzaldúa, 4th edition, p. 27.
Similar objection heard: “Unless someone has an audio recording of exactly what she called herself any approximation will have to do.” We do not have an audio recording but we have the Nican Mopohua and at least one other document reproducing the name GUADALUPE. In Spanish there is ONE sound for each letter, no room for error there. That alone suffices to affirm the name GUADALUPE. If between Juan Diego and the author of the Nican Mopohua was anything mispronounced, then all of Mexico mispronounced it. The indigenist interpretation is not only ill-intentioned, it is also patently false. It cannot be true. No need to approximate anything. Our Lady used “Guadalupe” and so it was recorded and never challenged until our days. The controversy is generated by those who want to name Our Lady with the demonic title of the Aztec version of the Pachamama: Coatlicue who was referred to as Coatlxupe.
The Nican Mopohua was written by Antonio Valeriano de Atzcapoltzalco (ca. 1521–1605) “the most accomplished pupil and then native scholar at the Franciscan Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco” (as quoted by Wikipedia) a man who learned Spanish, Latin, Greek and Roman jurisprudence later becoming a judge at the service of the Spanish Crown. Hardly a babbling idiot who would confuse one word in his native language with a similar word in a different language.
In conclusion, there is overwhelming evidence in favor of the name Guadalupe in this case. Those who promote the use of Coatlxupe or desire to rename an apparition from 1531 are gravely insulting both Our Blessed Mother and her loyal and devout Mexican sons and daughters. Few will read this blogpost written in haste to defend Our Mother in this age of confusion. I wrote it only because no one is calling attention to that atrocity.
The missing snake
There are no snakes (crushed or otherwise depicted) in the image of Saint Juan Diego’s Miraculous Tilma. There is however an angel with a very unusual face and garb more or less in the position where artists situate the snake. The slippers Our Lady is wearing are also unusual in Marian iconography. We also find a black Moon. Take a look.
The picture shows Our Lady in motion. The unusual angel reminds me of someone but I will refrain to indicate who. I will let you look carefully at the face and invite you to compare it with the face of a young seminarian who, as an older man, was elevated to the highest post in the Church. The angel is looking to his left while Our Lady seems to be marching towards her right. The angel’s wings bear the colors of revolutionary France instead of the usual white. The angel’s hands are partially hidden under the cloak of Our Lady. Near the center we can see a fold in Our Lady’s dress where the shadow forms a figure of the Crucified. The crease in the tilma connects the Crucified and the head of the angel. It seemed to me that blood dripping from the Cross is ‘baptizing’ the person represented by that angel. If that angel is who I think he is . . . does it mean that person is a future martyr who is going to receive a baptism of blood? The “rough Cross atop a hill” vision of Fatima comes to mind. I hope I am not reading too much into this.
Does this represent an age in which the Church will be in eclipse (dark moon) and someone with human revolutionary ideas will lead the flock in such a way that will trigger the direct intervention of Our Mother? The Spanish colonization of Mexico was about to be drowned in a bloody civil war when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared and saved the day. Are these details sending our age of political upheavals a secret message?
I would love to hear your thoughts.