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Video transcript

(gentle piano music) - [Voiceover] We're in the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City, and we're looking at an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is a replica of the original miraculous image, which is in the Basilica of Guadalupe here in Mexico city. - [Voiceover] And so this particular image, it's not solely a painting, it's actually what's called enconchado, or mother of pearl shell inlaid, in this case, into wood. - [Voiceover] That mother of pearl creates a reflective, iridescent surface that flickers and changes as your eyes move across it that certainly suggests the heavenly and the divine. - [Voiceover] She's shrouded in sunlight. She has stars on her cloak. This is imagery that comes from the book of Revelation, talking about the woman of the Apocalypse who was similarly shrouded in the sun, and had stars around her head, which have here been placed onto her cloak. - [Voiceover] And that she was standing on the moon, which we also see below her, supported by the figure of an angel. So the Virgin of Guadalupe miraculously appeared to an indigenous man named Juan Diego. This is only 10 years after Spain defeats the Aztecs. - [Voiceover] And when she appears to Juan Diego on top of the Hill of Tepeyac, which you can still go to today, which is where the Basilica is located. When she appears to him, she speaks in his language, which was Nahuatl, and she tells him to go to the Bishop and to put a shrine in her honor at this hill. - [Voiceover] So this is a moment in time when the Spanish are intensely converting the indigenous peoples, and this miraculous vision to an indigenous person confirmed the correctness of replacing religions that were here with Christianity. - [Voiceover] And in fact, the hill had in fact been a location for an Earth Mother deity, where there had been a temple. After Juan Diego goes to the Bishop, the Bishop does not believe him, and this happens several more times before the Virgin tells Juan Diego to gather up Castilian roses in his tilmar, his cloak, and to bring them to the Bishop as a sign that she is actually appearing to Juan Diego, and when he opens his tilmar, this cloak, before the Bishop, not only do the roses fall out, but the miraculous image of Guadalupe is imprinted on it. - [Voiceover] And that's the image that's in the Basilica of Guadalupe today. - [Voiceover] And we're seeing the replica of here. She has this ashen skin where she is known as the Dark Virgin, which has several layers of meaning. For one, it relates to the Old Testament Song of Songs where the beloved says, "I am black but beautiful," and this woman in the Song of Songs is then read by Christians as an analog for the Virgin Mary. - [Voiceover] But it's also significant here in Mexico-- - [Voiceover] Because there is the darker skin. She's become this indigenous advocation of the Virgin Mary. - [Voiceover] She's so popular here in Mexico. She's the patron saint of Mexico City. She was thought to have performed many, many miracles even after the initial miracles with Juan Diego. - [Voiceover] She becomes the co-patroness of New Spain in 1737 after she intervenes in horrible epidemics that were killing lots of people. And so she really has become this major symbol not only of Mexico, but Mexican identity, and I think what's important here is this enconchado is helping to create an even more sacred image of Guadalupe. (gentle piano music)