The Banner of Cortes
Down in Mexico City, a banner carried by Cortes in the conquest of Mexico is
displayed in the Castle of Chapultepec.* It depicts a
crowned Blessed Virgin with a radiance and twelve stars about her head. It is
interesting as a piece of art, and shows the regard in which Cortes
held the Mother of God. But more interesting, the pose bears some
similarities to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Seen here to the right, you will see her hands afold, her head bent down and turned
to the viewer's left, and her hair visibly parted,
all similar to features of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Both depictions have a radiance,
but in the banner or the standard picture, the radiance is about
her head, while in the image of Guadalupe, it is around her
person. Both have stars: here in the banner they arc around her head, and in the Guadalupan image, the
stars are scattered upon her
mantle. There is also a difference in the eyes: although it may not appear
so here, close up on the banner her eyes seem to look upwards, rather than downwards as
they do in
the famous image.
It's reasonable to assume the Indians would've
associated this banner with the Spaniards and their religion. As
such, it would've been one of their earliest memories of the Blessed Virgin.
After the conquest many of the indigenous did not accept the Christianity of
the conquerors. When the Blessed Virgin appeared to one of their own,
leaving her image, it's possible this earlier "appearance" of hers on the banner
(with its similarities),
helped them connect the image of Guadalupe to the faith of the Spanish that they
witnessed earlier, and that this helped facilitate their acceptance of that belief.
The picture of the
Virgin Mary is on a shield, with scrollwork to the sides and bottom, and
topped with a elongated crown. In the official guide book of the
National Museum of History, Museo
Nacional de Historia - Castillo de
Chapultepec, the picture is captioned: "Estandarte de la Virgen de
los Remedios que uso Hernan Cortes durante la Conquista (Standard of the
Virgin of Remedies that Hernan Cortes used during the conquest."
Notes written in Mexico, record that the
shield (escudo) was originally painted with oil (pintado al oleo). "Y cosido
posteriormente al campo de damasco (And sewn to the back on a field of
Around the image itself , starting in the lower left, are the words: ESTE ESTANDARTE FUE EL QUE TRAJO DN
FERNANDO CORTES EN LA CONQUISTA DE MEXICO (Refers to the standard being the
one Cortes brought in the conquest). The ovalish spots (left of
her head) must be reflections from lights in the castle.
* Chapultepec means "grasshopper hill."
in the Aztec language means
"saltamontes" in Spanish, and "grasshopper or grasshoppers" in English.