La Malinche

The Mother of the Mexican Nation.

Malintzin (or Malinalli), later called Doña Marina, was one of a group of young women offered to Cortés by a Mayan Lord shortly after his arrival on the shores of the New World. She spoke some language of the Maya and was versed in Nahuatl. The story goes that her skills were made known to Cortés when after his group was approached by the emissaries of Moctezuma and they addressed him in a language that his current guide Jerónimo de Aguilar could not understand (Nahuatl) Malintzin pointed at Cortés. Malintzin then became a core instrument in Cortés’ campaign as she would translate from Nahuatl into Mayan and Aguilar would then translate from Mayan into Castilian. This continued until Malintzin learned how to speak spanish.


Malinche (as portrayed by artist Diego Rivera)             

Her translating skills provided essential information not only for military purposes but also for the priests and their mission to spread Christianity.

Statue of Cortés , Doña Marina and baby Martin in Coyoacán, Mexico City.

Malinche is a controversial figure and is often reviled as a harlot and traitor to Mexico due to the belief that she played a pivotal role in the destruction of Mexican culture through her alliance to Cortés. Malinchismo is considered an insult in Mexico and its use suggests that the person being described as such (malinchista) has a disregard for their own Mexican culture and prefers foreign values over their own. When it’s used to describe a woman it portrays her as a deceiver; a source of betrayal and nefarious behaviour. The term exists somewhere between victim blaming and slut shaming (1). She became the “Mother of the Mexican Nation” when she bore Cortés a son, Don Martín Cortés in 1522.

  1. Slut-shaming is the practice of criticising people, especially women and girls, who are perceived to violate expectations of behaviour and appearance regarding issues related to sexuality. This is related to “victim blaming” where a victim of rape may be accused of “bringing it on themselves” for dressing or behaving in a particular manner.
Ahuianime (as portrayed by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera)

The denigration of Malinalli continues into modern history. If you image search for Malinche in Google you are often directed to this image. This picture portrays an ahuianime. Amongst the Mexica they were known as women whose job was to use their sexuality to seduce and were often branded as prostitutes. Ahuianime were associated with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of flowers, beauty, love, art, and sex for pleasure. More than just giving sexual pleasure, some ahuianime were also trained to entertain both soldiers and future victims of human sacrifice with other arts, such as music, dancing and cooking. Despite the valuable role these women played in society they were considered quite the opposite of how an “honest” or “proper” woman should conduct herself and allying Malinalli with the ahuianime is an example of the denigration of La Malinche.

As mentioned previously the treatment of pulque at the beginning of the 20th century is an example of the phenomenon known as malinchismo. (see Post on Pulque)

Porfirio Diaz was an important but brutal figure in the history of Mexico. He ruled over Mexico with an iron fist (1) and his tenure as El Presidente was commonly known as the Porfiriato. Porfirio was inured of all things foreign. He considered European customs vastly superior to those of Mexico and he wished to emulate the political and economic successes of el otro lado (2). One thing he did was to encourage foreign investment in Mexico to the point that at one stage more of Mexico was owned (or at the very least being profited from) by foreigners than it was by Mexicans. This prompted more than one disenchanted Mexican nationalist to describe Mexico as “the mother of foreigners and the stepmother of Mexicans”.

  1. 1876 -1880 and then again from 1884-1911
  2. El otro lado – “the other side”. The United States of America (this is a more modern term)
Porfirio Diaz   

It was at this time that beer production on a commercial scale was introduced to Mexico. Porfirio invited German businessmen (which included brewers) to Mexico who bought along with them not only the knowledge and skills of beer production but also the concept of Reinheitsgebot (1). This, along with Porfirios belief that pulque was for peasants and indios borrachos (2) resulted in a smear campaign that would turn pulque from what was essentially a multi million dollar industry into something dirty and unclean. It has been noted that “While never explicitly stated, the message was clear: Pulque was not a white person’s drink, and mimicking white culture was the ultimate high-society goal.”

This was demonstrated to me as even today (2018). When I discussed pulque with what I consider to be a worldly and educated Mexicana amiga she mentioned that it was a dirty product and that faeces was used in its production. So even a hundred years after the original smear campaign some of the locals still carry the belief that pulque is dirty when nothing could be further from the truth.

  1. Reinheitsgebot “purity degree” or literally “purity order”, the German Beer Purity Law
  2. Literally “drunken indians” or the indigenous locals. A derogatory slur.
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