Bioethics Blogs

A narrow lens

For the past several years, I’ve been studying devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe in the context of a migrant community in the rural south of the United States. The Virgin of Guadalupe is an icon of Mexican identity. Ten million people visit her basilica annually, and devotion to her continues to grow among Mexicans and non-Mexicans, Catholics and non-Catholics, alike.

According to the story, in December of 1531, the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexican native and recent Christian convert, on Mount Tepeyac in Mexico. She twice instructed him to go to the bishop of Mexico and tell him to build a church in her honor on Tepeyac. Juan Diego was turned away both times by the bishop and instructed not to return until he had proof of the apparition. When he encountered the apparition a third time, the Virgin told him to gather the roses that had bloomed on top of the cold, barren mountain and take them to the bishop. When Juan Diego opened his cloak in front of the bishop, the roses tumbled out, and on his cloak was an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Recognizing the miracle, the bishop built a church on Mount Tepeyac. Juan Diego’s cloak remains on display today in the Nacional Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Perhaps for simplicity’s sake, I often envisioned my research as the study of religious devotion. The deeper I got into my dissertation research, however, the more apparent it became that approaching the Virgin of Guadalupe as a religious symbol was too narrow a lens.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.