Our Lady of Guadalupe: Unproven and Spurious “Findings” on the Tilma of Aztec Juan Diego PDF Print E-mail

By Ramon A. Pedrosa

The article “Descubrimientos del Manto de la Virgen de Guadalupe” by André Fernando Garcia compiles all the ‘extraordinary’ ‘findings’ on the Tilma of Aztec Saint Quauhtlatoatzin Juan Diego.

They are mostly spurious, unproven, self-serving, unreplicated, or at best exaggerations - the result of the overactive imagination of devotees of the event, and they are many (propped by the Mexican Catholic Church unwilling to brook any criticism of the event or of the personalities involved) through the centuries.

These so-called findings denigrate and deviate the faithful from the core event: the appearance of the Blessed Mother of God to the native peoples of the world through two Aztec adults just when their civilizations were destroyed by the west.

This article continuous the collusion and starts by giving it an authoritarian cant by the misleading phrase "what science has discovered – lo que la ciencia ha descubierto..."

They range from the bizarre and fantastic, the spurious, to factual inaccuracies:


1. Opthalmological Studies

"Ophthalmalgic (sic) studies made on the eyes of Mary detected that when the eye is exposed to light, the retina contracts, and when the light is withdrawn, it returns to a dilated state, just as happens with a living eye."

This is pure fantasy. No one has ever been able to observe this event even in the years when the eyes of the image were the subject of intense scrutiny.

2. Temperature Readings

"2. The temperature of Juan Diego s tilma, made of a material that comes from fibers of the maguey cactus, maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees, the same as that of a living human body.”

Again, pure fantasy. And maguey is not a cactus.

3. Stethoscope

"3. One of the doctors who analyzed the tilma placed his stethoscope below the black band at Mary’s waist, and heard rhythmic beats at 115 pulses per minute, the same as that of a baby in the maternal womb."

What is the name of this doctor? When did he make this discovery? Who were his witnesses? None have come forward since this claim was published some ten years ago.

4. Stars

"8. The stars that appear on the Mantle of Mary reflect the exact configuration and positions that could be seen in the sky of Mexico on the day the miracle happened.

"On the right side of the Virgin's mantle, the southern constellations are indicated: At the top are four stars that form part of the Orphiuchus constellation. Below it to the left, one finds Libra, and to its right, at what seems an arrow point, is the beginning of Scorpio. In the middle are the constellations of Lupus and to its left, an end point of Hydra. Further down, one can clearly see the Southern Cross; above it appears the slightly inclined square of the Centaurus constellation.

"On the left side of the Virgin s mantle one sees the northern constellations: At her shoulder, a fragment of the stars of the Herdsman constellation; below it and to the left is the Great Bear. To its right is Berenice s Hair; below it, Hunting Dogs, and to its left, the Thuban, which is the brightest star of the Draco constellation. Below the two parallel stars (which still form part of the Big Bear), one finds stars from another pair of constellations: the Auriga and at the bottom, three stars of Taurus. Thus, in their totality and proper places, the 46 most brilliant stars that can be seen on the horizon of the Valley of Mexico are identified."

In Mexico this ‘study’ has been called "ciencia santiguada" -- sanctimonious science. In view of the finding that the stars were just added on, such a study, forcing an a priori conclusion according to some preconceptions by the authors, is meaningless -- unless it can be shown that the latent image beneath the painting shows original stars in the same places where they have been retouched.

The observation is made that the Aztec draw the stars as little globules which is how they are seen with the naked eye, and not as three, or five pointed stars in the style of the West. Fortifies the assertion that the stars were added on but not by an Aztec artist. So how do the Aztec see the stars on the Tilma? As drops of water that have blotted through the cloth. Moreover, the Aztec had their own astrology. So the effort to draw a picture of an Aztec sky with Western style constellations is overdoing it. For instance, the conglomeration of stars described in the West as the Pleiades is seen by the Aztec as Tiangis, the Aztec market place.

5. Refractive Eyes

"10. Scientists discovered that the eyes of Mary have the three refractive characteristics of a human eye."


6. Human Figures In Both Eyes

"11. In the eyes of Mary (only about 1/3rd inch in size), miniscule human figures were discovered that no artist could have painted. The same scene is repeated in each eye. Using digital technology, the images in the eyes were enlarged many times, revealing that each eye reflected the figure of the Indian Juan Diego opening his tilma in front of Bishop Zumarraga. Do you know the size of this scene? One fourth of a millimeter (1/100th of an inch)."

Fantastic if it were not dishonest! More to the point:

a. The Tampering Of The Eyes.

During the XVIIth (17th) Guadalupe Congress in 1992 in the City of Mexico, a number of amplified photographs of the face of the Sacred Image were put on sale at the lobby of the ampitheater. It was observed that recent photographs of the right eye contained a black circle surrounding the iris, which was not present in the magnifications of older pictures which were also on sale. In these latter (older) photographs the fabric weave of the Tilma could clearly be observed in said eye, while absent in the more recent ones. An official report of the tamperings through the centuries is contained in the document “Relación de Retoques.”

b. ‘discovery’

In 1929 Alfonso Marcué González, official photographer of the old Basílica for 40 years, was the first to discover the image-within-the image phenomenon in the right eye of the Face while examining black & white photographic negatives he had taken of the portrait. The Abbott Feliciano Cortés Mora at the time asked him not to publish his discovery. This is curious, because the natural instinct would have been to shout the discovery from the rooftops. But the Abbot knew that something had been done to the eyes of the Image, and, following the prevailing attitude of silence and denial, was not going to let the cat out of the bag. He would have had to explain how it got there, that he had authorized the retouching.

In 1951 the same discovery was made by José Carlos Salinas Chávez, but Archbishop Luís Maria Martinez of Mexico City directs him to study the phenomenon, and publish the results.

c. The incredible claim in 1979 by the Peruvian scientist Aste Tonsman phD Cornell, published in his book "El Secreto de sus Ojos." He is credited with having “discovered” six figures reflected in the corneas of both eyes. But his finding has not been replicated to this day and age of super digitalization of images. The Grupo Macehual in Mexico, among scientists in their own right, say that they have reexamined the digital images performed by Tonsman, and there are actually no human figures to be readily seen without the aid of the deliberate tracings and delineations as Tonsman has done. Upon closer inspection of the raw digital image some of the claimed figures were located in an area which, upon going into normal magnification, corresponded to the eyelid, and not the eye itself.


7. "no sign of paint"

"4. No sign of paint has been discovered on the tilma. From a distance of 3-4 inches from the image, one can see only the maguey cactus fibers of the material: the colors disappear. Scientific studies have not been able to discover the origin of the coloration, nor the way the image was painted. They cannot detect vestiges of brush strokes or any other known painting technique. NASA scientists confirm that the paint material does not belong to any known element on earth."

Again, this is misplaced over-excitement. There is paint ALL OVER the tilma, BUT NOT IN THE FACE AND THE HANDS OF THE VIRGIN. The above observation is correct only with reference to the Face and the Hands.

As a matter of fact the original figure, including the rose robe, blue mantle, hands and face ... is inexplicable. In terms of the infrared study executed over the tilma in the 70s, there is no way to explain either the kind of color luminosity and brightness of pigments over the centuries. It seems that the facial image is formed from the very woof and weft of the fibers of the cloth.

8. "no coloration," “floating colors”

"5. When the material was examined under a laser ray, it was shown that there is no coloration on the front or the back of the cloth, and that the colors hover at a distance of 3/10th of a millimeter (1/100th of an inch) over the cloth, without touching it. The colors actually float above the surface of the tilma. Isn t that amazing?"

This is misleading. Except in the areas of the face and the hands, the whole image is a mish mash of inept painting done through the centuries. For instance, in the surrounding ‘rays of the sun’ the paint has peeled off and had to be redone, yet even today can be readily seen as make-overs. The ‘black moon,’ originally smaller, has been painted over with a larger size. And so on.

But the Face is inexplicable.


9. The Material of the Tilma.

"6. The rough material of the tilma has a lifespan of no more than 20-30 years. Several centuries ago, a replica of the image was painted on an identical piece of maguey cloth, and it disintegrated after several decades. Nonetheless, during the almost 500 years of the miracle, the cloth with the image of Mary remains as strong as it was on the first day. Science cannot explain why the material has not disintegrated."

Here are the facts: the ayate does not come from native cactus plants, but is of woven hemp, from the plant agave fourcroydes native to Mexico. This could explain the Tilma’s remarkable state of preservation. Hempen cloth can last hundreds of years. It is one of the strongest fibers known.

10. The Acid.

"7. In the year 1791, muriatic acid accidentally spilled on the upper right side of the tilma. During the period of 30 days, without any special treatment, the affected fabric re-constituted itself miraculously."

Here are the facts: In 1791, etching fluid consisting of nitric acid was accidentally spilled over two-thirds of the length of the Cloth when silversmiths were cleansing the silver and gold frame; nothing happened to the Image, and only left two long stains on the Cloth which can be seen to this day.

11. The Bomb.

"9. In the year 1921, a man concealed a high power bomb in a flower arrangement, and placed it at the feet of the tilma. The explosion destroyed everything around it, except for the tilma, which remained intact."

Here is the actual recounting of the event: In 14 November 1921, during the reign of the despotic Mexican President Plutarco Calles, a cache of dynamite was surreptitiously planted near the altar by a member of his politico-atheistic cult during High Mass at the Basílica. The tremendous explosion blew all the magnificent stained-glass windows of the church to smithereens. But none of the stunned celebrants or congregation were seriously hurt. The Image which was a few meters away from the powerful bomb was completely unscathed, and the thin protective glass frame was not even cracked, apparently shielded by the huge bronze cross that was on the altar just below it, but the blast twisted it around.

The article closes with these observations, to which a few humble comments:

"To close, let us look at three surprising facts:

1. In the Indian language, “Guadalupe” means to crush the head of the serpent. It properly refers to Genesis 3:15: Mary, the conqueror of evil."

To be precise, the Aztec language has no consonant sounds for G or D - they cannot pronounce the term ‘guadalupe.’ It was imposed within fifty years of the event by the Spanish friars and/or civil government to identify the Mexican event with a Marian cult in Spain in the mountains of Extremadura by the village Guadalupe. There is not the remotest connection between the two. Except that they were indeed Marian events -- one Mexican, the other Spanish.

But there is an idem sonans -- the same sound -- in the nahuatl language agglutinative word phrase: TEQUATALOPE. And it means ‘crushes the serpent of stone.’

"2. The image also depicts a detail from Apocalypse 12: And a great sign appeared in Heaven: A woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet."

This is the claim that the Spanish priest P. Miguel Sanchez made in 1630. Taking advantage of the installation of the Image in the Cathedral of Mexico to where it was transferred during the great flood of Mexico City, he desired that it should represent the Woman of the Apocalypse, and so caused to be added over the simple figure of the Holy Virgin all the rest of the embellishment that is seen today. And he is quoted saying “I made myself the devoted painter of this holy image”.

And so upon the original Image he added a crown (which has since disappeared), the rays of the sun around the figure, stars embedded on her outer robe, the black moon at her feet, and a child angel cherub carrying her upon the clouds.

"3. The Virgin wears a black band at her waist, which symbolizes pregnancy, to indicate that God wanted Jesus to be born in the three Americas, in the heart of each American."

The black band is demonstrably an add-on. There is no such custom among the Aztec women to signify pregnancy.

And she didn’t appear to the ‘Americans.’ She came to her native children.

Aztec women wear calf-length wrap skirts and loose sleeveless blouses, no veils.

The little Lady in the Tilma is a Jewish maiden.

As stated above, these so-called findings denigrate and deviate the faithful from the core event of this greatest of all Marian interventions in human affairs: the appearance of the Blessed Mother of God to the native peoples of the world through two Aztec adults just when their civilizations were destroyed by the West.


Source: TEPEYAC -- Our Lady of ‘Guadalupe’ revisited. Ramon A. Pedrosa, Central Books. 2006