The devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, based on the story of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego, an Indian neophyte, at the hill of Tepeyac in December 1531, is one of the most important
formative religious and national symbols in the history of Mexico. In this first work ever to examine in depth every historical source of the Guadalupe apparitions, Stafford Poole traces the origins
and history of the account, and in the process challenges many commonly accepted assumptions and interpretations.
The most complete and thorough study of the Guadalupan tradition to date, this is also an outstanding representative of the historian's art. It sensitively probes every available reference to the devotion and apparition stories related to the Lady of Guadalupe Shrine near Mexico City. . . . Perhaps what makes this work most interesting to a wide audience of Latin Americanists and scholars in general is Poole's analysis of how the stories got interpreted and used by different groups over time. . . . Highly recommended for every sort of library.
Poole does the impressive job of relating the story of every major document of these formative three centuries. He highlights the relevant aspects of these sources, listing and describing the innumerable manuscripts, together with the events and personalities of the time. . . . This study is the most thorough and daring of its kind available in any language.
Poole finds that, despite common belief, the apparition account was unknown
prior to 1648, when it was first published by a Mexican priest. And then, the virgin became the predominant devotion not of the Indians, but of the criollos, who found in the story a legitimization of
their own national aspirations and an almost messianic sense of mission and identity. Poole finds no evidence of a contemporary association of the Virgin of Guadalupe with the Mexican goddess
Tonantzin, as is frequently assumed, and he rejects the common assertion that the early missionaries consciously substituted Guadalupe for a preconquest deity.