What Are Some Facts About Saint Juan Diego?

Originally named Cuauhtlatoatzin, Saint Juan Diego was an indigenous Mexican who converted to Roman Catholicism and who, according to tradition, was visited by the Virgin Mary. He was born in 1474 in Cuautitlán, Mexico, and died in 1548 in Tepeyac Hill. He was canonized in 2002.

Juan Diego lived as a weaver, farmer and laborer, and was married without children. When he was 50 years old, he and his wife were among the first indigenous people to accept baptism and convert to Christianity after Spanish conquistadors and missionaries introduced it to Mexico.

On Dec. 9, 1531, Juan Diego rose before dawn to walk 15 miles to daily Mass in what is now Mexico City. As he passed Tepeyac Hill, he heard music and saw a glowing cloud encircled by a rainbow. A woman's voice called him to the top of the hill, where he saw a beautiful young woman dressed as an Aztec princess. She spoke to him in his native language, and said she was the Virgin Mary and asked Juan to tell the bishop to build a church on that site.

The bishop asked Juan to bring proof of her identity. On December 12, while searching for a priest to administer last rites to his uncle, Diego was visited by Mary again. She instructed him to climb to the top of the hill and gather the flowers to take to the bishop as a sign. Shocked to find flowers growing in the frozen soil, he gathered them in his cloak and met the bishop. When Diego opened his cloak, Castilian roses, which were not grown in Mexico, fell out, and imprinted inside Diego's cloak was an image of the Lady. A church was later built on the site where she appeared, and thousands converted to Christianity.

Juan Diego lived the rest of his life in a hut next to the church built in honor of Mary and took care of the pilgrims who came to the shrine. He was buried in the church, and his cloak is still in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.