(Article from http://www.followthissite.com/guadalupe.php)
Only 39 years after Columbus discovered the Americas, and 10 years after Hernán Cortés defeated Montezuma and the Aztec Empire for Spain, the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Indian, in 1531.
Most of the interest in Mexico was gold, but since Spain was a Catholic country, there was also strong interest in converting the native population to the Catholic faith, but in 1531, few Indians had been converted to Catholicism. Even though the Aztec Nation was decimated, many Aztec indians were considering a general insurrection against the Spaniards. Many still practiced human sacrifice and polygamy behind the backs of the Friars [Catholic Missionaries].
Bishop-elect Fray Juan de Zumarraga prayed for peace, reconciliation, conversions, and for an end to human sacrifice and polygamy, and his prayers were answered by the Blessed Mother. The Bishop's special prayer to Mary was that she would grace him with Castilian Roses from his homeland in Spain, since he missed them dearly, and they didn't grow in Mexico.
One of the early converts was Juan Diego, and on one of his long 10 mile walks to church through the Tepayac hill country in central Mexico, he encountered a miracle. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, 1531, Juan was attracted to a hill-top by the sound of singing birds. Our Lady called out:
There he encountered a beautiful woman surrounded by a ball of light as bright as the sun, at a spot known as Tepayac Hill. Juan Diego thought he was in Heaven. The rocks appeared as emeralds, in the transfigured environment. The beautiful Lady spoke in his native language, and identified Herself:
"My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace. So run now to Tenochtitlan and tell the Bishop all that you have seen and heard."
Juan Diego, age 57, and who had never been to Tenochtitlan, nonetheless immediately responded to Mary's request. He went to the palace of the Bishop-elect Fray Juan de Zumarraga and requested to meet immediately with the bishop. The bishop's servants, who were suspicious of the rural peasant, kept him waiting for hours.
The bishop-elect told Juan that he would consider the request of the Lady and told him he could visit him again if he so desired. Juan was disappointed by the bishop's response and felt himself unworthy to persuade someone as important as a bishop.
He returned to the hill where he had first met Mary and found Her there waiting for him. Imploring Her to send someone else, She responded:
"My little son, there are many I could send. But you are the one I have chosen."
She then told him to return the next day to the bishop and repeat the request. On Sunday, after again waiting for hours, Juan Diego met with the bishop who, on re-hearing his story, told him to ask the Lady to provide a sign as a proof of who She was. Juan dutifully returned to the hill and told Mary, who was again waiting for him there, of the bishop's request. Mary responded:
"My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear. The Bishop shall have his sign. Come back to this place tomorrow. Only peace, my little son."
Unfortunately, Juan Diego was not able to return to the hill the next day. His uncle had become mortally ill and Juan stayed with him to care for him. After two days, with his uncle near death, Juan left his side to find a priest. Juan had to pass Tepayac Hill to get to the priest. As he was passing, he found Mary waiting for him again. She spoke:
"Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Your uncle will not die at this time. There is no reason for you to engage a priest, for his health is restored at this moment. He is quite well. Go to the top of the hill and cut the flowers that are growing there. Bring them then, to me."
While it was freezing on the hillside, and no roses should be blooming in the freezing weather, out of season, Juan obeyed Mary's instructions and went to the top of the hill where he found a full bloom of Castilian roses. Removing his tilma, a poncho-like cape made of cactus fiber, he cut the roses and carried them back to Mary. Our Lady was not satisfied with the haphazard arrangement so She rearranged the cut Castilian roses into a nice bouquet and told him:
"My little son, this is the sign I am sending to the Bishop. Tell him that with this sign I request his greatest efforts to complete the church I desire in this place. Show these flowers to no one else but the Bishop. You are my trusted ambassador. This time the Bishop will believe all you tell him."
At the Bishop's palace, Juan Diego once again came before the bishop and several of his advisors. He told the bishop his story and opened the tilma letting the flowers fall out. The Bishop recognized the flowers as the Castilian Roses sign that he had prayed for, but it wasn't the beautiful roses that caused the bishop and his advisors to fall to their knees; for there, on the tilma, was a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary precisely as Juan had described her. The image developed before the eyes of the Bishop and an assembled court of approximately 13 people, as if it was an old-fashion Polaroid print! The Bishop was certain that the Image was not a painting or some trick by Juan Diego, because it was impossibly developing before his very eyes!
The next day, after showing the Tilma at the Cathedral, Juan Diego took the bishop to the spot where he first met Mary. He then returned to his village where he met his uncle who was completely cured. His uncle told him he had met a young woman, surrounded by a soft light, who told him that she had just sent his nephew to Tenochtitlan with a picture of herself. She told his uncle:
"Call me and call my image Santa Maria de Guadalupe".
It's believed that the word 'Guadalupe' was actually a Spanish mis-translation of the local Aztec dialect. The word that Mary probably used was 'Coatlallope' which means "one who treads on snakes", perhaps referring to her hatred of Satan, in
"And the Lord God said unto the serpent, 'I will put enmity between thee and the woman".
Bible scholars agree that the Blessed Mother is the 'woman' referred to in Genesis 3. 'Enmity' is a determined, enduring, and extreme hostility between enemies. Also, Our Lady of Guadalupe appears eerily similar to the description of Her when She is battling Satan, in Revelation 12:1:
"A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."
Within two weeks, the Bishop had a Church built on the miracle spot. The indians came together with the Spanish because the indians recognized Our Lady as one of them because of the design details of the Image. Now it wasn't just the white man's European religion, but the Indian’s own.
In their celebration, they shot arrows into the air, and one came down and pierced an indian through the neck, killing him on the spot. Someone in the crowd was inspired to bring the tilma to him, so they did, and they prayed for him. He got up from the ground, and the arrow was pulled from his neck, that left two marks but no blood, and the dead indian was fine! This first miracle is depicted in a large mural at the museum in Mexico City.
There were so many miracles after this first, that they stopped counting, and the Aztec Indians were overwhelmingly convinced of the authenticity of Our Lady's message. Within nine years of this apparition, nine million Aztecs had converted to Catholicism. This is the largest mass conversion in the history of the world, overwhelming the 3,000 in one day, in the Pentecost conversions in the Book of Acts. Nine Million in Nine Years is an average of over 2,700 per day, for nine years!
Aztec Indians would come out of the wilderness and ask for the Waters of Baptism, in sign language, because Our Lady had said that She was 'your fountain of life'.