The more than 450-year-old Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than simply a picture. It contains symbols - in a sense, hieroglyphics, or a story in pictures - that reveals part of the message of the Blessed Mother brought through St. Juan Diego to the Natives of Mexico and to all the people of the Americas. But the symbols had a special meaning to the Natives, who because of their culture could decipher the code in the Image.
The eyes of the Image are looking down, a position of humility, revealing that, as great as she is, she is not a god. Native gods never looked down; they looked straight ahead.
The woman's face shows great compassion. The Natives felt that the face was the window of the inner person, a means by which one could read who a person was - the way a person would act. A good woman to the Natives was one whose femininity showed in her face. The head of the woman in the Image shows her with dark skin and dark hair like that of Natives.
Her hands are not poised in the traditional Western style of prayer, but in an indigenous manner of listening, indicating that help is being offered, that something is to come from her.
The Maternity Band
The maternity band around the woman's waist is the sign of a pregnant woman, a mother who is about to give birth; it was a sign to the Natives that someone is yet to come.
The Four-Petal Flower
The four-petal flower on her womb is the symbol of a new era; of a new being. This being is Jesus.
The position of the stars in the mantle gives the exact time and day of the apparition marked by the constellations above Mexico City's sky on that moment.
The Sun Rays
The rays of the sun in the Image recalled for the Natives that the sun played a key role in their civilization. But the woman in the Image is greater than even the sun. She hides the sun but does not extinguish it.
The predominant color in the Image's mantle is turquoise, the blue-green color reserved for the great god Omecihuatl. Although the Natives had many "intermediary gods," Omecihuatl was considered the supreme god, a mother-father god who sometimes was represented as a man and sometimes as a woman. It was a source of unity for everything that exists.
The woman is standing on the moon, indicating that she has overcome evil, expressed by a black moon.
The "angel" at the bottom of the Image was seen by the Natives as an "intermediary god" carrying in a new era, the beginning of a new civilization. One era was at an end - had died - and a new one was beginning, was being born.
2004 Reprinted From the Mexican American Cultural Center, an original publication of the Denver Catholic Register. Permission Pending.