Sunday, April 27, 2014

La Malinche – An American Indian Aztec/Nahua

La Malinche
La Malinche also known as Malinalli, Malintzin or Dona Marina was an American Indian of Aztec/Nahua clan from the Mexican Gulf Coast. She played a very important part in the Spanish conquest of Mexico and was presumed to be a princess of a Nahuatl, the Aztec language tribe who was sold to coastal slave trader during her youth due to family politics.

Towards 1519, as a peace offering, she was presented to Cortex with twenty other female slaves. When Cortex got to know that Dona Marina spoke the Aztec language, he showed more interest in her. She was an interpreter, advisor, lover and intermediary for Cortex.

Among his crew, he had a Spaniard who was shipwrecked and who had lived among the Mayans for eight years. Marina who also spoke Mayan besides Aztec helped in communicating with most of the tribes within the Aztec empire. Later she became the mistress to Cortez giving birth to his first son, Martin who was considered to be one of the first Mestizos, a mixed breed of European and indigenous American ancestry.

Intelligent and Indispensable

La Malinche 2
Marina seemed to be a very intelligent woman and made herself indispensible to Cortex. She learnt the Spanish language very quickly and earned the respect of all Cortex’s troops and was given high regards by his captain.

Besides translation, she also provided Cortex with insight in the Aztec culture and he became too dependent on her advice on many issues. There are several instances where she had overheard conspiracies by natives against the Spaniards and thus warned them of the dangers while in other situations, she play acted to encourage natives to reveal any additional information.

It is believed that Cortex would not have succeeded in his efforts without the help of Marina and in his letters to the King of Spain, Cortex had credited Marina in providing indispensable service and that he considered her to be godsend.

Dona Marina – A Historical Figure

La Malinche 3

She became a consort of Cortex besides being his advisor and converted to Christianity. It is said that she accompanied Cortex on an expedition to Honduras in 1524-26 following the conquest of Mexico. Marina never became his legal wife since he was married to a Spanish woman residing in Cuba.

Finally she married a Spanish Captain of Cortex and was given an estate in Mexico while the son she bore him was acknowledged with provision done for his education. The date and the circumstance of the death Dona Marina is not known.

The historical figure of Marina has been mixed with Aztec legends like La Llorona, a woman weeping for lost children. Marina’s image became a mythical archetype which the artist of Latin American portrayed in various forms of art and her figure is portrayed in cultural, historical, as well as social dimension of Latin American culture.

La Malinche 4
In many genres, in modern times, she has been compared with the figure of the Virgin Mary, with the Mexican soldaderas – women who fought besides men during the Mexican Revolution, besides La Llorona.

According to changing social and political perspective, her reputation has been changed over the years especially after the Mexican Revolution when she came in dramas, novels and paintings as a scheming and an evil temptress.

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