--by Rosalee L. Espericueta
In La Madre del Maiz, Gilbert R. Cruz does an excellent job in depicting the history of not only the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but also the history of Juan Diego’s land and people. The book’s creative structure will engage readers as it begins with the story of the cultivation of maize, which was a highpoint of the Aztec Empire. Then, Cruz shows how various tribes of Meso-America began to learn about cultivation of corn through inter-tribal transactions since survival and nourishment formed the heart of community life. The concept of nutrition links to Motherhood and comprises essential components of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Ultimately, corn, Juan Diego, and the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe smoothed the bonds of the faith of Native Americans with Catholicism.
Cruz describes various belief systems of the world and how all can relate to each other and illustrates the invasion of Spain’s conquistadores in the New World and the fall of the Mayan Empire. As the Natives’ homeland fell to the Spaniards, their culture was changed as well. Alarmed about real and potential mistreatment of the Native Indians, Pope Paul III declared that the people of the New World were rational beings and should be treated as humans who should never face enslavement. Cruz says this set the stage for the history of Juan Diego’s people and also how the Mother of God spoke through the Pope to the Mayan decedents. Cruz goes further to explain how New Spain changed into Mexico, New Mexico, California and Texas. These vignettes show the web of influences that created values, cultures, and societies across the Southwest and Mexico.
Along with the migration of people comes the migration of religion. The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe spread until it was acknowledged worldwide. Cruz explains the story in three parts, how life was lived before, during and after the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. In addition to a complete and fascinating list of notes and bibliography, a bonus that Cruz offers his readership is the helpful glossary of the lexicon of Spanish, Catholic and anthropology terminology. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about the ways of the Mayan Empire and the Virgin of Guadalupe.