Virtual Virgin

Guadalupe, via cyberspace, returns to save the world.

By Sam Quinones
Published December 2, 1996 1:09PM (EST)


the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's patron
saint and its oldest, most indigenous religious symbol,
has slipped via cyberspace from the 16th century to the

Interlupe, a web site dedicated to the Virgin, was
unveiled publicly at the 21st National Guadalupan Congress
here last week.

"Almost 500 years ago, the Virgin of Guadalupe came from
heaven to help evangelize the people [of Mexico]," said
Monsignor Enrique Salazar, director of the Center of
Guadalupan Studies in Mexico City, which is sponsoring the
site. "Now she returns to the skies to evangelize the
entire world."

According to legend, the Virgin of Guadalupe first appeared to Juan
Diego, an Indian peasant, on Dec. 12, 1531, near the spot where Aztec Indians
had once worshipped Tonantzin, the mother of all gods.

A dark-skinned, Mexican version of the Virgin Mary, Guadalupe's reported appearance
helped convert Mexico's millions of Indians to Catholicism.

Historians have called the cult surrounding her the
closest thing the country has to a nationally binding philosophy. While the country's politics have been steeped in anti-clericalism, the "Dark Virgin," as she is known, remains a source of intense faith especially among the Mexican poor.
Even those who say they are not Catholic profess belief in her miraculous powers.

The place where Juan Diego was originally visited by her, north of what is now Mexico
City, has been converted into a shrine to which millions
of pilgrims come each year. Every Dec. 12, altars in the Dark Virgin's
honor adorn poor barrios across the country. The Vatican, meanwhile, is in the process of making Juan Diego a saint.

Interlupe, a cybershrine of sorts, is the work of Homero
Hernandez, the 25-year-old owner of a firm that specializes in multi-media for architects."She's the center of my
faith," Hernandez says. "She's always there supporting me."

The Web site is divided into two parts. The first, in Spanish (an English-language version is presently "under construction"), contains studies, discussions and sermons on various aspects of the Guadalupan phenomenon. Here, surfers can find descriptions of the Virgin's original appearance; Juan Diego's life; Guadalupan-inspired art, architecture and sculpture; and an area devoted to the "Nican Mopohua," the book which relates the story of the five appearances the Virgin made to Juan Diego.

Interlupe also gets into more esoteric parts of the
phenomenon: for example, the stars on the Virgin's cloak, which supposedly match exactly the alignment of the stars the night she appeared. Her eyes get another whole section. In the early 1980s, researchers studying paintings of Guadalupe claimed that they discovered in her eyes
of human beings, later found to be, among others, Juan
Diego and Juan de Zumarraga, the humanistic 16th century Franciscan
friar known as "Protector of the Indians."

The second part of the site is devoted to e-mail, receiving and responding to
messages, comments, questions and announcements related to
the Virgin from across the world. Centro researchers monitor the site daily, selecting
appropriate themes and answering e-mail questions.

"We wanted to clear up all the concerns that people
had," Salazar said. "There's so much that's said out there
that has no basis in historical fact."

Interlupe's's web site address is:

The e-mail address is:

Quote of the day

All lit up

"Pull all these out  I look like a Christmas tree."

 Mother Teresa, telling her doctors to disconnect the tubes and cables transmitting medication and oxygen to her after her angioplasty operation (From an Associated Press report on Mother Teresa, who was in "critical condition" on Monday.)

Sam Quinones

Sam Quinones is a reporter in Mexico City.

MORE FROM Sam Quinones

Related Topics ------------------------------------------