Aztec culture is something of an enigma, isn't it? Arguably one of the cruelest religions in human history
And he responded:
It is, because it could also be argued otherwise.
The tales of mass sacrifices are an obvious exageration.
And, although it remains totally condemnable to express any kind of belief in the form of human sacrifice, if we manage to see beyond and underneath that, we will see a religious process in the various Mesoamerican cultures, Aztecs included, to prepare for the coming of the Gospel.
The Aztecs were "almost" ready, they just needed a little push, and Our Lady gave them just that, as we will see in the conclusion of the narrative.
Juan Diego accepted Our Lady’s assurances that his uncle was taken care of, so she could resume the task of convincing the Bishop:
124. And the Queen of Heaven, immediate commanded him to climb the hill, there, where he was honored to see her before.
125. She deigned to tell him: “Climb, little son of mine, most beloved, climb up the hill where you saw me and where I gave you command.
126. There you will see planted many kinds of flowers: Cut them, gather them together. Then bring them down here, bring them here to me”.
Flowers? Yes, it sounds strange to our culture, however, we must realize a few things:
First of all, flowers were among the most revered creatures in the Aztec mind. The Heavenly paradise was called “Xochitlapan”, which literally means “Land of Flowers”. To the Aztecs, all good things had roots, and a beautiful flower was both, a sure indication of good roots and a promise of a good fruit. The most fertile area of the valley of Anahuac (where Tenochtitlan used to be, and where Mexico City is today), was dedicated to growing flowers, and to this day, this area is called “Xochimilco”, and even today, a choice name for girls in Mexico is “Xochitl”, which means exactly that: “Flower”.
Also, this hill, the Tepeyac, is not known precisely for its fertile soils. It is part of the northern boundaries of the Anahuac, a rather arid area of the valley.
Finally, it was December. The mountain ranges south of the Anahuac were probably covered with snow. The north hills are not as high as to gather snow, but it was no time to find abundance of flowers anyway.
To give a flower as a present was the ultimate honor. Not even the Aztec Emperor could afford to give flowers to his every guest, and therefore, what he could afford went to his most distinguished and closest acquaintances.
Juan Diego surely guessed that this was it. If the next step involved flowers, then it was time to make it or break it.
And so he went up the hill, and when he finally reached the summit and saw the beauty and variety of the flowers there, the narrative says he was “speechless with awe”, and after a just a brief contemplation, he proceeded to cut the flowers.
Juan Diego was not only allowed to go to “Xochitlapan”, he got to cut its flowers. Juan Diego was doing exactly what all his ancestors dreamt about and never managed to do: partaking of the Glory of God.
He placed the flowers in his tilma, and came down to Our Lady:
134. Then he came down bringing to the Queen of Heaven the various flowers he went to cutThe words of Our Lady are here more or less for our benefit. She took the flowers and gave them to Juan Diego to give them to the Bishop. That was so much more than enough.
135. And her, seeing them, kindly took them in her little hands,
136. and place them back in his tilma. She deigned to tell him:
137. “Little son, most beloved, these various flowers are the proof, the sign you will take to the Bishop.
138. On my behalf you will ask him to see in them my wish, and to execute my will.
139. And you… you re my plenipotentiary ambassador, for in you I place all my trust.
140. I strictly command you, that in front of the Bishop, and exclusively before him, to spread your tilma, and to show him what you carry in it.
141. And you will tell him, with all detail, how I sent you to climb the hill to cut the flowers, and all you saw and admired.
142. And with this, you will move the heart of the High Priest, so that it will be done, the construction of my shrine, which I requested.
If flowers were the ultimate present, you wanted to give them personally. If you sent flowers through a proxy, you were giving that person the fullness of your authority.
Again, perhaps Bishop Zumarraga wouldn’t have understood all this, but he was going to get his own sign in due time. This part of the sign was not mainly for Zumarraga’s benefit, but for the Aztecs.
The narrative says Juan Diego went immediately back to Mexico City, it says he went happy, full of joy in his heart, because he knew everything was going to be all right.
He’s got the ultimate symbol, beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and he’s got the ultimate authority to carry out his mission.
Still, the narrative is clear that he was not day-dreaming, but he went with the utmost care for his precious cargo.