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Tonantzin ‘Our Mother’, Aztec earth goddess

An image of Tonantzin?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Darlene Olivo: I am a visual artist working on a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe/Tonantzin. While I’ve found many images of Guadalupe, I have not found a suitable and definitive image of Tonantzin in a large enough file that I can make a tracing. Where might I find one? Thank you so much. I would appreciate any help you can give me. (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Coatlicue monolith, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Coatlicue monolith, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

We should explain to others that that most Catholic of Mexican icons, the Virgin of Guadalupe, embodies the union between the Virgin Mary and the Aztec/Mexica earth goddess, known as Tonantzin (but also as Coatlicue). After all, it was on the hill of Tepeyac (a sacred hill for the Aztecs, where they worshipped their Earth Mother Tonantzin) that the Virgin Mary was supposed to have appeared to the Indian Juan Diego in 1531, and insisted that a church be built in her honour. It is of course today the Basilica of Guadalupe, on the outskirts of Mexico City. The story is a classic example of the ‘syncretism’ (fusion) of Aztec and Spanish beliefs.

Aztec figurine that may represent Tonantzin, ‘Our Mother’
Aztec figurine that may represent Tonantzin, ‘Our Mother’ (Click on image to enlarge)

The Aztecs worshipped mother goddesses in several guises - Tonantzin, Coatlicue, Cihuacóatl, Xochiquetzal... The simple hollow clay rattle figurines of standing, bare-breasted Aztec women wearing skirts and bearing children that we show here (found in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City) are the most common type of Aztec figurine and have often been identified as household images of Tonantzin - although they may simply represent idealized Aztec women, as they lack the costume and headdress of a deity.
So it would seem valid to use either one of these figurines or one of the classic images of the stone monolith Coatlicue - you’ll find more images of her dotted around our website.

Picture sources:-
• Aztec figurines: photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Coatlicue monolith: photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore

‘The Virgin of Guadalupe and Tonantzin’

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: The one thing they do have in common is the ‘title of high reverence’! Of course they’re not the same - but we have to recognise the shrewd and pretty successful job the Spanish carried out of BLURRING the two together, precisely, as you say, so that the local people would be attracted to the Basilica of Guadalupe...