Hernán Cortés, La Malinche, and México’s Malinchísmo

Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors arrived in 1519 in what is now México. Shortly, circumstances transpired in which a young native girl by the Mexica name of Malintzin became his slave, and subsequently, also became his interpreter, advisor, confidante and mistress…  Because of her positions, she became a distinctive figure in the conquest of México – and for the roles she played along side Cortés, historically she has at times been reviled as a traitorous prostitute for helping the Spanish foreigners defeat the various indians of what later became known as México…  


 Nonetheless, others have viewed her as one in the peculiar role of the stereotypical woman in history (or in current day) who under trying conditions beyond her control, is thrust into difficult situations obviously not of her design, and makes the best of them…

 Soon after becoming a part of Hernán Cortés’ entourage, Malintzin was baptized with the name of Marina (Doña Marina) into Christianity and later bore him a son: Martín Cortés, the first off spring in the New World of Spanish caucasian and indian parents — or at least, the first mixed child historically noted…

 It was said that whether in formal or informal settings,  she was always at Cortés’ side — he wholeheartedly trusting her and she never betraying him…  So much was he dependent on her in official and unofficial matters, that in one interpretation she reportedly became known as La Malinche : a reference to being an advisor captain to Hernán Cortés

 But, along the way in Mexican history the original positive tone of the sobriquet developed into the term Malinchera, as well as Malinchismo  the first one specifically referring to Malintzin as a traitor, and the second one evolving from the first and generally referring to the nationalisitic view that if any citizens commingled with foreigners, they were traitors to their homeland…

 Still, though, as previously mentioned, a negative view of lady Doña Marina is not held by all…


4 Responses

  1. Interesting

  2. Nice post and and a fascinating glimpse into the changing of the Americas.

    I have found it interesting that throughout history so many women have made such an strong impact while supposedly forced into a subservient role …… and many of these instances occurred at pivotal points such as initial contacts between polarizing cultures.

    It is easy to label acts of accommodation and tentative alliance as traitorous, and usually thorough evaluation requires enough time to pass to allow sufficient hindsight to develop.

  3. Interesting what was mentioned in one of the links that an interpreter can have so much impact on history.

  4. “became a slave” probably meant that she was made into slave, so she did not choose to become one. Anyone in history who complains about a person like this one or puts her down needs to recognize that she was not free to act like a free person could in similar situations.

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