An image that one is likely to come across in cemeteries where there are high populations of Mexican immigrants is the Virgin of Guadalupe, also referred to as Mother of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the Patron Saint to of Mexico.
According to the Catholic Church, the Virgin of Guadalupe was first seen as an apparition the first of four times by Juan Diego on December 9, 1531. Juan Diego described the woman in the vision as the Virgin Mary dressed in a cloak the color of the clear blue sky. The cerulean cape was emblazoned with eight point stars and She was standing on top of a crescent moon being carried by a cherubic angel.
The Virgin Mary called out to Juan Diego and introduced herself as “the Mother of a very true deity.” She asked that a church be built in her honor on that spot on Tepeyac Hill (now a suburb of Mexico City). The humbled Juan Diego excitedly approached the Archbishop Juan de Zumarraga to tell him of the apparition and of the Virgin Mary’s request.
Unfortunately the Archbishop did not believe Juan Diego. A second time the Virgin Mary appeared before him. Again She made her request. Juan Diego returned to the Archbishop and pleaded his case and insisted that the vision he had witnessed was real. The disbelieving Fray Zumarraga instructed Juan Diego to ask this apparition for a sign to prove that She was real. During his third visit from the Virgin she agreed to supply the proof the very next day.
Leaving from his uncle’s sick bed, Juan Diego hurried to meet with the apparition. Upon seeing her for the fourth time, Diego apologized for being late and explained that his uncle was on his death bed and he had attended to him. She assured him that his uncle had been healed. The Virgin instructed Diego to go to the spot where he had first seen her to gather flowers. Impossible, he thought, it was the dead of winter but he followed her instructions and went to the top of Tepeyac Hill where he discovered blooming Castilian roses which he gathered into his winter cloak to show the Archbishop. When he arrived to show the Archbishop the proof he opened his cloak and the roses fell to the floor and the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was emblazoned on the fabric of his coat.
Depictions of the Virgin of Guadalupe are varied, sometimes with the Virgin standing on the half-moon carried by a cherub, sometimes shown as carrying the baby Jesus, but always with the cerulean cloak and eight-pointed stars with rays of light behind Her—sometimes as an incised carving on a gravestone, sometimes as a free-standing sculpture.