Little is known of the life of Juan Bernardino, or if he even existed. According to the legend, he lived in Tolpetlac, some nine miles north of Tenochtitlán. He brought up his nephew, Saint Juan Diego, after the latter's parents died. After the 1529 death of Juan Diego's wife, Maria Lucia, Juan Diego moved to be near his then-aged uncle in Tolpet.
Vision of Our Lady
At the time of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in December 1531, Juan Bernadino fell ill. According to most sources, he contracted cocolixtle, a dreaded fever that normally led to death. On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego returned from his first two apparitions to find his uncle very ill. All that night and next day, Juan Diego tended to his uncle. Towards sunset, it became clear that Juan Bernardino was dying. Juan Diego set out at four the following morning, to bring back a priest to hear his uncle's confession and administer the last rites.
While he was gone, Juan Bernardino became too weak to drink the medicine that had been left by his bedside, and he felt he was about to die. Suddenly the room was filled with light and a beautiful radiant lady appeared to him. Our Lady appeared to Juan Bernardino and cured him. He immediately felt that his body had recovered from the fever, and getting up, fell to his knees before the apparition. She told him that she had met Juan Diego and sent him to the bishop with her sacred image imprinted on his tilma. It was at this apparition that she identified herself as 'The Ever Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe' Some analysts believe that she actually said not de Guadalupe but te coatlaxopeuh which many scholars translate differently; "the one that originates from the cliffs", who crushes the stone serpent, "the one that has dominion of the serpent", etc.