Doña Marina/La Malinche: A historiographical approach to the interpreter/traitor

Roberto A. Valdeón
Universidad de Oviedo/University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

This paper provides a historiographical approach to the figure of Doña Marina or La Malinche, the interpreter of Hernán Cortés during the conquest of Mexico, in order to reassess the fictionalization of the character that we often find in Translation Studies. It is argued that this discipline has used her name in an impressionistic way and, therefore, it seems necessary to complement the translation scholar’s approach with that of the historian. The paper will explore the ways in which Doña Marina has been presented by translation scholars. The next section will provide the perspective of historians, focusing on three aspects relevant for Translation Studies: (1) the facts known about her origin, which explain her ability to communicate in two local languages, (2) her role as interpreter during the conquest of Mexico, (3) her alleged participation in the Cholulan massacre as an informant of Cortés. It will conclude with a discussion that aims to highlight the contrast between the use of impressionistic views of historic figures and the more balanced narratives based on factual rather than mythical elements.

Keywords
Table of contents

Although interpreters have taken part in colonial ventures, as linguistic and cultural intermediaries between the conquerors and the colonized (Roland 1999), few translators can be considered more controversial than Doña Marina/La Malinche, the interpreter that assisted Hernán Cortés during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. She has captured the imagination of writers, historians, ordinary people and, precisely because of her role as a mediator, of translation scholars. And, as with the [ p. 158 ]other groups mentioned, her figure has stirred much controversy. For some she exemplifies the ultimate traitor, for others she is merely a victim of her times. In all cases she was a translator, “a virtuoso of interpretation”, as Rosenwald has recently put it (2008, 46). Of course, there is nothing new about this. Translation scholars merely reflect the contradictions that we encounter elsewhere, perhaps because the historic character has become a useful metaphor that can support most approaches and interpretations, however unsubstantiated or biased they may be.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.

References

Alonso, Icíar, and Jesús Baigorri
2004 “Iconography of Interpreters in the Conquest of the Americas.” TTR 17 (1): 129–153.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Arrojo, Rosemary
2002 “Interpretative as Possessive Love. Hélène Cixous, Clarice Lispector and the Ambivalence of Fidelity.” In Post-colonial Translation. Theory and Practice, ed. by Susan Bassnett, and Harish Trivedi, 141–161. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Baker, Mona
2009 “Introduction to the First Edition.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, ed. by Mona Baker, and Gabriela Saldanha, xiv–xix. London: Routledge. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Bassnett, Susan, and Harish Trivedi
2002 “(1999).” In “Introduction: Of Colonies, ed. by , 1–18. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Barjau, Luis
2009La conquista de la Malinche. Mexico: MR Ediciones.Google Scholar
Bastin, George
2009 “Latin American Tradition.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, ed. by Mona Baker, and Gabriela Saldanha, 486–492. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Burkholder, Mark A., and Lyman L. Johnson
2001Colonial Latin America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Calderón-Moncloa, Luis F
2007 “Latin American Cultural Values and their Impact on Knowledge Management.” In Knowledge Management in Developing Economies: A Crosscultural and Institutional Approach, ed. by Kate Hutchings, and Kavoos Mohannak, 173–189. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Candelaria, Cordelia
1980 “La Malinche: Feminist Prototype”.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 5 (2): 1–6.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Chipman, Donald E.
2005Moctezuma’s Children. Under Royalty Under Spanish Rule, 1520– 1700. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
Clendinnen, Inga
1993 “Fierce and Natural Cruelty: Cortés and the Conquest of Mexico.” In New World Encounters, ed. by Stephen Greenblatt, 12–47. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Collins, Maurice
1954Cortés and Montezuma. London: Faber.Google Scholar
Cortés, Hernán
1922Cartas de relación de la conquista de Méjico. Madrid: Espasa.Google Scholar
2001Letters from Mexico. Translated by Anthony Pagden. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Cronin, Michael
2000 “History, Translation, Postcolonialism.” In Changing the Terms. Translating in the Postcolonial Era, ed. by Sherry Simon, and Paul St, 33–52. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Cypess, Sandra M.
1991La Malinche in Mexican Literature. From History to Myth. Austin: University of Texas.Google Scholar
Delabastita, Dirk
2009 “Fictional Representations.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, ed. by Mona Baker, and Gabriela Saldanha, 109–111. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Delisle, Jean, and Judith Woodsworth eds
) 1995Translators Through History. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Díaz del Castillo, Bernal
1904Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España. Volumen I. México D.F.: Oficina Tipográfica de la Secretaria de Fomento.Google Scholar
1963The Conquest of New Mexico. Translated by J. M. Cohen. London: Penguin.[ p. 178 ]Google Scholar
Figueroa Torres, J. Jesus
1975Doña Marina, una india ejemplar. Mexico DF: B.Costa-Amic Editor.Google Scholar
von Flotow, Luise
1998 “Le féminisme en traduction”.” Palimpsestes 11: 117–133. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Gentzler, Edwin
2008Translation and Identity in the Americas. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hassig, Ross
2006Mexico and the Spanish Conquest. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
Helps, Arthur
1855The Spanish Conquest in America and Its Relations to the History of Slavery and the Government of Colonies. London: John W. Parker and Son West Strand.Google Scholar
Hernández, Mark A.
2006Figural Conquistadors. Rewriting the New World’s Discovery and Conquest in Mexican and River Plate Novels of the 1980s and 1990s. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.Google Scholar
Hugues, Sallie
2006Newsrooms in Conflict. Journalism and the Democratization of Mexico. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Kartunnen, Frances
1994Between Worlds. Interpreters, Guides and Survivors. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
1997 “Rethinking Malinche.” In Indian Women of Early Mexico, ed. by Susan Schroeder, Stephanie Wood, and Robert Haskett, 291–312. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
Lanyon, Anna
1999Malinche’s Conquest. Crows Nest, NSW: Griffin Press.Google Scholar
Lefevere, André
1995 “Translators and the Reins of Power.” In Translators through History, ed. by Jean Delisle, and Judith Woodsworth, 131–155. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
León-Portilla, León
1962The Broken Spears. The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
Levy, Buddy
2008Conquistador. Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
Logie, Ilse
2004 “La Malinche, Jerónimo de Aguilar, Felipillo. De rol van tolken bij de verovering van Amerika. Filter 11 (1): 3–10.Google Scholar
de Madariaga, Salvador
1941Hernán Cortés. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.Google Scholar
Medin, Tzvi
2009Mito, pragmatismo e imperialismo. Frankfurt: Vervuert. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Meza, Otilia
1985Malinalli Tenepal, la gran calumniada. Mexico DF: Edamex.Google Scholar
Meyer, Michael C., and William L. Sherman
1979The Course of Mexican History. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
O’Sullivan, Carol
2012 “Introduction: Rethinking Methods in Translation History.” Translation Studies 5 (2): 131–138.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Paz, Octavio
1997El laberinto de la soledad y otras obras. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
Pittaluga, Gustavo
1946Grandeza y servidumbre de la mujer. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.Google Scholar
Prescott, William H.
1843The Conquest of Mexico. Volume I. Boston: Dana Estes & Company.Google Scholar
1871The Conquest of Mexico. Volume II. Boston: Dana Estes & Company.Google Scholar
1873The Conquest of Mexico. Volume III. Boston: Dana Estes & Company.Google Scholar
Ptsouras, Peter G.
2005Montezuma. Warlord of the Aztecs. Washington D. C.: Potomac Books Inc.Google Scholar
Pym, Anthony
2000Negotiating the Frontier. Translators and Intercultures in Hispanic History. Manchester: St Jerome.Google Scholar
Rabasa, José
1993 “Writing and Evangelization in Sixteenth-Century Mexico.” In Early Images of the Americas. Transfer and Invention, ed. by Jerry M. Williams, and Roberto E. Lewis, 65–92. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.[ p. 179 ]Google Scholar
Ríos Castaño, Victoria
2005 “Fictionalising Interpreters: Traitors, Lovers and Liars in the Conquest of America.” Linguistica Antverpiensia 4: 47–60.Google Scholar
Robinson, Douglas
1996Translation and Empire. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
Roland, Ruth A.
1999Interpreters as Diplomats. A Diplomatic History of the Role of Interpreters in World Politics. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.Google Scholar
Rosenwald, Lawrence Al.
2008Multilingual America. Language and the Making of Multilingual America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Russell, Philip L.
2010The History of Mexico. From Pre-Conquest to Present. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Simon, Sherry
1996Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission. London/New York: Routledge.   Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
Thomas, Hugh
2000Who’s Who of the Conquistadors. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
Townsend, Camilla
2006Malintzin’s Choices. An Indian in the Conquest of Mexico. Alburquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
White, Hayden
1987The Content of the Form. Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
White, Jon M.
1971Cortés and the Downfall of the Aztec Empire. A Study in a Conflict of Cultures. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar