Among the many mysteries of Guadalupe, the famous apparition site near Mexico City, is the origin of its name. It’s a mystery deeper than most realize. And it’s fascinating because of its potential mystical significance.
The other day, we reported one theory: that after St. Juan Diego saw the Blessed Mother in December of 1531, local Spanish clerics dubbed the site “Guadalupe” because it called to mind an apparition that had occurred two centuries before in their homeland of Spain. That spot, southwest of Madrid, was also known as “Guadalupe,” which in local dialect referred to swampland or “hidden channel,” according to scholar Jody Brant Smith. (Others say it meant “river of light.”)
There are additional theories that are more mysterious yet, and prime among these is that the Aztec Nahuatl word of coatlaxopeuh — pronounced “quatlasupe” and sounding remarkably like the Spanish word Guadalupe — was a reference to the battle with evil. “Coa meaning serpent, tla being the noun ending which can be interpreted as ‘the,‘ while xopeuh means to crush or stamp out. So Our Lady must have called herself the one ‘who crushes the serpent,'” asserts one Guadalupe website, referencing others who have posited the same interpretation.
Could this be the case? Might the name have several meanings? Could the phonetic system of the Indians both tie the name to the apparition site in Spain and also have a second, even more expansive meaning?
Today in areas of Mexico where the Aztec language is still spoken, she is referred to as “Santa Maria Te Quatlasupe,” an easier form of Coatlaxopeuh instead of the Spanish version “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.” And then there is the fact that she did crush the head of the serpent. Her image replaced a temple that had been dedicated to the goddess Tonantzin, and her appearance to St. Juan Diego (and his uncle) converted millions of Aztecs — who up to that point were said to have sacrificed at least 20,000 humans a year to their gods.
In fact, in 1487, just four decades before the apparitions, the Aztecs had slain 80,000 captives in dedicating a new pagan temple!
But within seven years of the apparitions, from 1532 to 1538, an estimated eight million Aztecs and other Indians became Christians — natives who had been worshipping Quetzalcoatl, or “the feathered serpent”!
This of course is what the Blessed Mother is famous for: stepping on the serpent’s head, at enmity with the snake.
Now she is also known as “Our Lady of the Americas,” and now she moves to crush the head of the serpent — the rising paganism — across the Western Hemisphere.
[Note: Upon his election, President Vicente Fox of Mexico paid a visit to her image and that day a quake was felt in Mexico City. So too did Governor Jeb Bush of Florida visit the shrine, and after countless supplications by millions of pro-lifers invoking her in the last U.S. presidential election, a pro-lifer named George Bush was declared president when the Supreme Court decided for him on December 12, 2000 — the Guadalupe feast day.]