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Joseph Toone's Walking Tour: Virgin of Guadalupe

Written and illustrated by Sofie Engström von Alten

In front of one of the town’s many beautiful Catholic churches the walking tour of Centro San Miguel de Allende begins promptly at 10 am. It is lead by historian and savant Joseph Toone, who is a fascinating wealth of information about Mexico. He leads tours around the city eight days a week. This past Tuesday I tagged along to learn about the beautiful city we live in. I mentally praised my walking shoes as we wove our way through the historic downtown, climbing and descending stone steps. Removing our caps we entered lofty churches to hear stories of Spaniards, indigenous, and the thing they both share... spirituality.

My favorite story of Joseph's that day was of how the famous image of the Virgin of Guadalupe came to be:

The Spaniards were having trouble converting the image-oriented, nature-worshipping indigenous to Catholicism. After ten years the indigenous were still exalting their hot springs and fields of corn. The Spanish bibles that had been given to them lay untouched. This went on until one day the Virgin came down and appeared to a poor indigenous farmer, Juan Diego, where is now Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City. Enchanted and inspired, he ran to the Catholic Church and told them that the Queen of Heaven had come to him in a vision and had ordered for a church to be built in that very spot. The Spanish refused to believe his tale, and the farmer was sent home discouraged.

But Our (future) Lady Guadalupe would not be so easily ignored. She returned to the farmer the next week. This time she, in the middle of winter, caused roses to grow and told him to bring a bouquet to the church, wrapped in his tilma (a burlap-type cloak woven mostly of cactus fibers). The farmer obeyed. When he opened the fabric to give deliver the roses, as the they tumbled out, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in fantastic, bright colors upon the cloak. Roses and image, two miracles! The Catholic Church was convinced, and ordered for a church to be erected on the spot of Juan Diego's revelation. There the cloak is on display, immune to any weathering effects. (Editor's note: See unusual scientific and artistic qualities of the image at 4 Literally Awesome Facts About Our Lady of Guadalupe)

The image of the Virgin is the one we still see today, painted under every eave and corner of San Miguel de Allende, protecting and blessing tourists and locals alike.

The brisk tour leads us curious visitors from church to church, dissecting the intricately carved facades, meeting the wise saints and sidestepping devout locals. I learned that each saint has their own holy day, and that some have an entire week, as well as their own talents and remedies for everyday ills. Among this wealth of traditions lies a tightly-knit, loving community that makes San Miguel what it is today.


Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact toone.joseph@yahoo.com or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.


Sofie Engström von Alten is an illustrator and artist originally from California. She came here to San Miguel to feel the magic crystals under the earth and to continue her artistic practices. She is also learning Spanish.

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