On Dec. 12, 1531, in newly colonized Mexico City, the Virgin Mary appeared to an Aztec farmer, Juan Diego, and spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native language, telling him to ask the bishop to build her church.
Despite Mary’s command, the Spanish bishop refused to comply until, after repeat visits, Juan Diego opened his cloak and roses cascaded out, revealing the image of Mary with the skin tone and features of an Indigenous Mexican woman. The bishop finally relented and had the church built on the hill of Tepeyac, where millions visit to this day. Demi’s retelling is both often at odds with the historical record and unabashedly Euro-centric: “In 1519 AD, the powerful Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, landed in Mexico.” Cortes arguably was not a “conquistador” prior to the Mexican campaign. He had been a bureaucrat and owner of Indigenous slaves in Hispaniola and Cuba. Additionally, Demi’s familiar style is incongruous against the setting of 16th-century Mexico. Juan Diego and his fellow Aztecs are garbed in sombreros and clothing from the Mexican Revolution—more than 300 years in the future—and the Spanish conquistadors bear a resemblance to images of Mongol warriors. Furthermore, the Virgin herself appears more Asian then Aztec, and Juan Diego’s childlike depiction belies the fact that he was 57 at the time. Demi also fails to portray the modern basilica even though she ends her retelling in modern Mexico.
The artistic condescension and incongruities make this a marginal offering at best. (further information) (Informational picture book. 4-7)