La Malinche

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 9/17/2009

La Malinche, the title of this lithograph, was the indigenous woman who translated for Cortés between Maya, Náhuatl, and Spanish during his first years in Mexico. Considered either as a traitor or a founding mother by some Mexicans, La Malinche was Cortés' lover and the mother of his favorite son Martín. She and Moctezuma are also central figures in the Matachines dances that are performed in Mexico and New Mexico. Originally commemorating the expulsion of the Moors from southern Spain in 1492, the dance was brought to Mexico where it was treated as a means for Christianizing native peoples. The historical figure of La Malinche, known in Spanish by the name Doña Marina, is also credited for playing an almost miraculous role in the early evangelization of central Mexico. This print, made by Jean Charlot in the 1933, shows a young girl in the role of La Malinche, holding a rattle or toy in one hand, and a sword in the other. Jean Charlot, a French-born artist, lived and studied in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s. He depicted stylized scenes from the daily life of Mexican workers, particularly indigenous women.