Doña Marina was a key player in the Spanish conquest of Mexico. As a young woman, doña Marina (ca. 1505–ca. 1530), also known by her Nahuatl name as La Malinche, had been traded away by her family and was later given to Hernán Cortés by a Maya lord. She turned out to have extraordinary linguistic skills and worked as Cortés's translator, not only in 1519, when he led the conquistadors to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, but also later when he led an expedition to Honduras. In many pictorial indigenous histories she appears by his side, including the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, a page of which is included in the Vistas gallery. Although Cortés would marry off La Malinche to one of his compatriots, Juan Jaramillo, La Malinche gave birth to Cortés's son, who, because of his famous parents, has come to represent the birth of mestizaje in the New World.

This account of La Malinche's reunion with her family was written by a foot soldier in the conquest of Mexico, Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492–1584). He wrote as an old man, living his twilight years in Guatemala; his account, which stresses the grace and resilience of this woman, offers the most extensive "eye witness" description of La Malinche that has survived from the 16th century. Because La Malinche's speech was written down almost a half–century after these events had transpired, it may have been heavily reconstructed by Bernal Díaz.
Visual Culture
While La Malinche is famed for her founding role in the creation of a mestizo nation, this excerpt written by Bernal Díaz emphasizes her ability to mediate between cultures, a role also underscored in her depiction in native manuscripts. In addition to being an exceptional translator, she could also negotiate different cultural systems. Her language here, as she speaks with her long–lost family, ("they knew not what they were doing") echoes that of Jesus as he forgives his crucifiers, and Bernal Díaz, who may have remembered La Malinche's speech, or have invented it, knew such associations would be clear to his Spanish readers. However, her gifts to her family—gold and clothes—were firmly rooted in indigenous practice, with cloth, in particular, being a an appropriate luxury gift.

See a picture of Doña Marina in the Vistas Gallery.

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