Stella Pope Duarte

La Virgen and Talking Eagle

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How could a man born a peasant in a remote village outside of Tenochtitlan, the ancient capital of the Mexica (Aztec) nation, ever expect that one day he would be chosen to witness the appearance of a heavenly figure who would change the course of human history? We can be certain that Cuauhtlatoatzin, whose name meant Talking Eagle, then 57 years old, was taken by surprise by what he thought was a Mexica princess early one morning on Tepeyac Hill. By then, his Mexica name had been changed to Juan Diego reflecting his conversion to Catholicism, the religion of the conquering Spaniards.

Juan Diego saw the lady for the first time on December 9, 1531, as he made his way through a dark, rocky hillside to Tenochtitlan to attend mass. She was dressed in the elegant garb of a princess, her robe of a scarlet color signifying wisdom, her black belt announcing her pregnancy, and her blue-green cloak of stars alluding to her heavenly power. A temple to Tonantzin, Earth Mother, had once existed in the place where she now appeared, and Talking Eagle, her faithful servant, now wondered if the ancient goddess had come back to visit earth. The wondrous woman’s skin and features were dark as were Talking Eagle’s. To his surprise, she spoke to him in his native tongue, Nahuatl, in a melodious voice like the trickling of a gentle waterfall. 

So lovingly did the lady speak to him that Talking Eagle stopped in his tracks. “Juanito, Juan Dieguito, where are you going my son whom I love like a small and tender child? Where are you going?” 

She addressed him by his new name, and immediately, Juan Diego took on a new image that would forever link Indians to Spaniards, in a dance that would captivate the heart of believers from all corners of the world. He knelt at her feet and told her he was to attend mass in the city.

Very clearly the lady spoke again, looking at him tenderly: “I want you to know who I am. I am the ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. I desire a church in this place that I may always show my love and compassion for your people.” 

Her peace and love reached the man who had now become “Juan Diego,” and he listened further as she directed him to go the bishop in Tenochtitlan and tell him all he had seen and heard. Juan Diego had no success as he delivered the lady’s message to the bishop and, on his way home, he again encountered the lady who smiled tenderly and simply told him to return to the bishop the next day. 

Ridiculed and discounted as a dreamer, Juan Diego again was not able to convince the bishop, who asked for a sign from the lady. She, in turn, in a third appearance told him to “Come back tomorrow, the bishop will have his sign.” Tending his uncle, Juan Diego did not return until a day later, and on December 12, 1531, “Juan Dieguito,” as the Lady tenderly called him, carried in his tilma the roses she had asked him to gather from the top of Tepeyac Hill. She arranged the flowers in his tilma and, after presenting the roses to the bishop, he saw impressed on the rough fabric, the image of the lady he had seen on Tepeyac Hill, la Virgen de Guadalupe, she who treads on serpents. 

Juan Diego lived up to his ancient name, Talking Eagle, as his words soared through the heavens, an eagle telling of la Virgen’s abiding love.

Stella Pope Duarte was born and raised in South Phoenix. She began her award-winning career in 1995 after she had a dream in which her deceased father told her that her destiny was to become a writer. Contact her at

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