Science & Culture

The Huei tlamahuiçoltica and the Nican Mopohua

Porque en verdad yo soy un hombre del campo, soy mecapal, soy parihuela, soy cola, soy ala; yo mismo necesito ser conducido, llevado a cuestas, no es lugar de mi andar ni de mí detenerme allá a donde me envías, Virgencita mía, Hija mía menor, Señora, Niña:
Oración 55, Nican Mopohua

Because I am really (just) a man from the country, I am a (porter's) rope, I am a back-frame, a tail, a wing, a man of no importance: I myself need to be led, carried on someone's back, that place you are sending me to is a place where I'm not used to going to or spending any time in, my little Virgin, my Youngest Daughter, my Lady, Beloved Maiden.
Section 55, Nican Mopohua

The Huei tlamahuiçoltica (The Great Event) has a number of components, the most important of which is the Nican Mopohua.

The full title of the work is Huei tlamahuiçoltica omonexiti in ilhuicac tlatocaçihuapilli Santa Maria totlaçonantzin Guadalupe in nican huei altepenahuac Mexico itocayocan Tepeyacac. ("By a great miracle appeared the heavenly queen, Saint Mary, our precious mother of Guadalupe, here near the great altepetl of Mexico, at a place called Tepeyacac"). The author and compiler of the Huei tlamahuiçoltica (1649) is Luis Lasso de la Vega, a Mexican priest and lawyer. He was a criollo, a Mexican born of full Spanish ancestry. He was appointed vicar of the sanctuary of Tepeyac (shortened from the original Tepeyacac). He was a zealous Catholic, expert speaker and writer of mexicano (Nahuatl), and devoted to the Virgin Mary as can be seen from the coat of arms of his family.

Ave Maria, gratia plena means Hail Mary, full of grace.

The Huei tlamahuiçoltica is comprised of seven sections, the most important of which, the Nican Mopohua, appears here in the original mexicano and in Italian, Spanish, and English translation.

I. Preface, titled in mexicano (Nahuatl), "Noble Queen of Heaven, Forever Virgin, Mother of God." In it Lasso addresses the Virgin directly, and after a brief introduction he gives the reason why he expressed the history of the apparitions in mexicano:

  • "You yourself spoke in Nahuatl to a poor Indian and painted yourself in his ayate (cloth fabricated from the fibers of the maguey plant), thus showing you are not displeased with many languages …"
  • "That the Indians of this land remember and keep in their language all you did for them and how it happened …"
  • "Christ on the Cross had His sentence in three languages …"
  • "You were with the apostles in Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit" (a reference to the speaking of tongues as in Acts 2:1-6)

II. Nican Mopohua ("Here is recounted"), the narrative of the apparition to Juan Diego and later to his uncle, Juan Bernardino. The date and authorship of the Nican Mopohua is the subject of some speculation and controversy, but in Mexico itself it is widely accepted, including by Edmundo O’Gorman and Miguel León-Portilla, that the manuscript used by Lasso was the original by Antonio Valeriano written c. 1556.

Antonio Valeriano (1520?-1605) was a full-blooded Amerindian, the most accomplished pupil and then native scholar at the Franciscan Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco. He was a close collaborator with Fray Bernardino de Sahagún in the creation of theGeneral History of the Things of New Spain, the Florentine Codex.

He served as judge-governor of both his home, Azcapotzalco, and of Tenochtitlan.

Nevertheless, it is likely that Valeriano accessed that manuscript through the work of Miguel Sánchez (1594–1674), priest, writer, and theologian who was the author of the 1648 publication Imagen de la Virgen María, a description and theological interpretation of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. 

Download the complete Nican Mopohua in pdf form:  nican_mopohua_italian_nahuatl_spanish_english.pdf

The Nican Mopohua is separated into its 218 component sections in Italian, Náhuatl (mexicano), Spanish, and English. When full caps are used in theNican Mopohua this signals dialog.

We have provided a full inventory of all of the appearances of the suffix –tzin and its variants such as –zintli-zinco. This suffix is used primarily to express respect. Sometimes it is a diminutive. The expression can be intensified even further by use of a second suffix; for example, -tli, which added to -tzin = -tzintli.

III. Description in considerable detail of the Image of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. This component is not set off separately but follows directly theNican Mopohua, although it is quite different in style from it.

IV. Nican motecpana (“Here is an ordered account”) describes fourteen miracles associated with the Guadalupe image.

V. A post-apparition biography of Juan Diego describing his pious life and devotion to the Virgin and her image.

VI. Nican tlantica ("Here ends") is a general history of the Virgin in New Spain and an exhortation to her devotion.

VII. Final Prayer, which follows the structure of the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen).