4 things to know about Saint Juan Diego, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in CDMX

A KSAT crew traveled to Mexico City in September to research the history and origins of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Part of the trip to Mexico included a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

MEXICO CITY – A KSAT crew traveled to Mexico City in September to research the history and origins of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

San Antonio is set to host its own Day of the Dead parade along the River Walk on Nov. 1.

Part of the trip to Mexico included a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here are some facts about the historic site and basilica.

Special Section: Day of the Dead

Significance of site 

The church has tremendous significance in the Catholic religion.

The first structure of the Old Basilica was constructed from 1695 to 1709 near the hill of Tepeyac.

It is a sacred site where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to Saint Juan Diego.

Millions of people visit the site every year, especially around Dec. 12 which is when the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is held. 

Who was Juan Diego? 

Juan Diego is a native of Mexico who was one of the first indigenous people to convert to Christianity.

It is believed he was visited by the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac four times in December 1531.

The Virgin Mary asked Juan Diego to go to the bishop and request that a chapel be built in her honor, so she could help those that pray to her and those in need. 

The bishop was hesitant to believe Juan Diego, and asked for a sign to which the Virgin Mary agreed.

However, Juan Diego failed to meet her the next day to attend to his gravely sick uncle.

Feeling ashamed, Juan Diego did not take his normal route and was intercepted by the Virgin Mary.

The Virgin Mary then told him a phrase that is still inscribed in main entrance of the basilica.

"¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?" which translated to English means "Am I not here, I who am your mother?" ​​​​​​

She assured him his uncle would be OK, and told him to collect flowers from the hill to take to the bishop.

He listened and collected flowers to take to the bishop. Juan Diego opened his cloak and the flowers poured out, creating an imprint of the Virgin Mary on a mantle.

The bishop saw the image and kept Juan Diego's mantle before it was taken to Tepeyac. 

The current basilica claims to possess the cloak, and it can been seen immediately upon entering the building. He died in 1548 around the age of 73 or 74.

Juan Diego was beautified on May 6, 1990 and canonized on July 31, 2002. 

Current basilica site 

Pilgrimages have been made to the site for centuries. The church was granted basilica status by Pope Pius X in 1904.

Over time, the Old Basilica began to sink and the foundation became unstable. It was closed for many years, but has reopened after repairs.

A new, modern basilica with more space was built between 1974 and 1976 next to the old one.

The original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is now housed in this New Basilica. A statue of Juan Diego is there as well.

The new basilica was built in a circular fashion so the image of the Virgin Mary can been seen from any viewpoint.

It can accommodate 10,000 people and has several chapels.

Panteon de Tepeyac 

The Panteon de Tepeyac is located at the top of the hill at the site, next to the Cerrito chapel.

It is considered to be the oldest cemetery in Mexico City.

The legend is that Juan Diego asked that his remains be buried at the site of what is now the cemetery.

Presidents, politicians and other notable Mexican residents are buried at the cemetery.

It has records that date back to the 17th century.

Full Screen
1 / 13

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.