The Lady in the Shadows
To be young and beautiful are considered gifts from God. To be older and accomplished, are considered gifts to God. Look closely in any SMA art that depicts the story of Mexico and you’ll find a sexy, shadowy figure in the background next to the handsome, blonde, white man. She is La Malinche (the General’s woman) who hitched her indigenous wagon to Cortez’ star and changed the history of Mexico by being his interpreter and accomplished the defeat of the Aztec Empire.
La Malinche was a Nahua woman who spoke several languages (including Spanish she learned from a marooned sailor). Upon becoming Herman Cortes’ mistress she birthed his first son, Martin, considered one of the first Mestizos, people of mixed European and indigenous ancestry.
Malinche’s public image has been massaged more than the singer Madonna’s according to changing political perspectives. Following freedom from Spain Malinche was seen as an evil temptress that betrayed her people in books, films and plays. The term malinchista refers to being a traitor, along the lines of US’ Benedict Arnold.
Feminism altered that image to that of an early empowered woman who took control of her life and career, reaching unprecedented heights of power of influence. A more maternal perspective of Malinche insists she was a victim who rose up to become the symbolic mother of the new Mexican race.
From my outside, over there point of view she, like the singer Madonna, is not someone I bring up in conversation as, like the singer Madonna, reactions to her impact are mixed. However, her impact is undeniable no matter how often you see her blending in the background of murals while waiting in line to pay your real estate taxes or showing your guests around the Allende Institute.
Like Guadalupe’s ever-present image, Sur Juana on the 200 peso note, Josefa’s role in Independence from Spain, and actress’ Maria Felix street in Colonia Guadalupe Malinche is a Mexican woman that has left her mark on present day SMA’s culture and faith. But then again, so has Detroit’s Madonna when local dance students perform routines to her music in biannual shows at the Angela Peralta!