Theses and Dissertations - UTB/UTPA

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)



First Advisor

Dr. David Pearson

Second Advisor

Dr. Antonio N. Zavaleta

Third Advisor

Dr. Luis Rodriguez-Abad


This thesis focuses on "iconotheophanies" or images of deity in ordinary objects. It further looks at the people who recognize and believe in iconotheophanies, specifically those of Mexican descent. This study hypothesizes that the Virgin of Guadalupe narrative, which emphasizes the appearance of images on objects, sets a pattern for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to recognize the sacred in their own lives. Juan Diego, as the main character in the story, demonstrates a theoretical profile of five characteristics of individuals most likely to recognize iconotheophanies. These characteristics are: low level of acculturation, low socioeconomic status, male gender, older age, and increased religiosity. Each of the traits in this "Juan Diego Paradigm" constitutes psychological distress. In many cases the individuals who exhibit these traits are more likely to ritually reenact the mythical encounter with the Virgin of Guadalupe through iconotheophanies.

Data is presented from seven believers closely involved with the phenomenon in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The iconotheophanies include: the Virgin Mary's appearance on two trees, a window curtain, a shower floor and a Chevrolet Camaro, as well as the likeness of Jesus in a tortilla. Supplementary data collected from literature reports 87 additional iconotheophanies throughout the world. Ultimately the data reveals a clear connection between the Virgin of Guadalupe narrative and iconotheophanies. Not only do iconotheophanies appear to be most prevalent among those of Mexican descent, but most witnesses liken themselves to Juan Diego. With the partial exception of gender, the data supports the Juan Diego Paradigm. Perhaps most significant, it demonstrates the importance of annual income in the phenomena.


Copyright 2001 Monica Delgado Van Wagenen. All Rights Reserved.

Granting Institution

University of Texas at Brownsville