Spanish Literature Term Paper

Download this Term Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Term Paper:

Treatment of Women in Mexican Culture

The choices for women have, across both time and space, almost always been far more constrained than the choices of men. They have in fact all too often been reduced to a single pair of opposing choices: The pure or the corrupt, the white or the black, the chaste or the sexual - the virgin or the whore.

Mexican culture is certainly not exempt from this tendency to place women on one side of this dichotomy or the other, but in the case of Mexican images of women this division of the female half of the population into the chaste, good woman and the terrible promiscuous one becomes complicated by issues of race (and racial purity), by the historical condition of colonization and post-colonization, by the partial displacement, partial incorporation of native belief systems by Catholicism.

These many complications and elaborations of this essential and essentializing dichotomy about the true nature of woman can be seen to come together in the character of La Malinche, a figure not well-known outside of Mexico (except to those whose families originally came from Mexico). This paper explores the figure of La Malinche, a figure who representations have over the years become at least in general more positive as Mexicans have regained a sense of themselves as a people worthy of self-respect - and as Mexican women have refused to see themselves as meriting only the role of a traitor condemned to silence.

Woman of Many Guises

La Malinche's image has changed substantially over time in the years since the conquest of the Aztec empire by the Spanish to the current day. This in large measure reflects changes in the ways that the Mexican people view themselves, but the various incarnations of the figure also result from the fact that she has different regional representations and has also been joined in a form of cultural syncretism at other times. Octavio Paz demonstrates in his The Labyrinth of Solitude how shifts in the perception of La Malinche reflect larger shifts in self-perception by Mexicans - although such shifts in the perception of La Malinche may help to cause as well as simply to reflect such shifts.

Her figure permeates historical, cultural, and social dimensions of Latin American cultures. In modern times and in several genres, she is compared with the figure of the Virgin Mary, La Llorona (folklore story of the weeping woman) and with the Mexican soldaderas for her manly valor. The soldaderas were women who fought beside men during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920).

While her life has most certainly become mythologized, it also seems clear that there was a real, historical person called La Malinche, a template upon whom a number of cultural texts have been written. However, while something is known of her real life, much is not. She may have been called Malinitzin or perhaps Malinali. She is also called by the name she received when she was baptized into the Catholic faith - Dona Marina. According to the legend told by Bernal D'az del Castillo, a contemporary of La Malinche, she was born in the first years of the 16th century as a princess of the Aztec empire, a sufficiently high social position that she was given an education far more extensive than that of most girls and indeed even many boys.

After her father died, her mother remarried and bore her new husband a son. La Malinche was now merely a stepchild of the family, and was sold into slavery by her parents to the Mayan-speaking people of the south, who traded her to the Tlaxalteca tribe in Tabasco. When she was 14, the people of Tabasco gave her as one of a score of women to Hernan Cortes, who in turn doled them out to his captains. Given first to Alonzo Hernando Puertocarrero, Dona Marina later became the companion of Cortes himself when Puertocarrero returned to Spain (Castillo 100).

La Malinche - not unlike Sacagawea - was useful to the colonizers became she spoke a number of different languages and used them to help Cortes draw a number of different Indian nations to his side against the Aztecs:

Malinche became one of Cortes' greatest assests: "Without the help of Dona Marina we would not have understood the language of New Spain and Mexico" (Diaz 101). Malinche would stand beside Cortes and translate his words or even issue instructions of her own. She was a key to success in convincing other Indian nations to join them in their quest to destoy the great Aztec nation. For instance, she was an interpreter between Moctezuma and Cortes.

La Malinche was for many years seen as nothing but a traitor, a woman her gave her body - and her mind and intellectual talents - to the enemy. Little acknowledgement was given to the difficulty of her own life - her enslavement by her parents, her being given as chattel to whatever Spaniard might be amused by her, her rejection by Cortes when his Spanish wife joined him, her death at the age of 24.

The word "malinchista" has been identified with La Malinche as a person who betrays his/her race and country; this person mixes his/her indian blood with white European blood. Since the historical Malinche had a child with Cortes, she is considered the mother of the "meztizo" race (children born to Spanish-Indian parents).

But while for many years the figure of La Malinche has been seen unequivocally bad and even evil terms, she has begun to be reclaimed in the last generation by especially feminists who she her original depiction as an attempt to blame her, Eve-like, for the weaknesses and self-hatred of men.

It is time that women discover the Aztec Indian woman called Dona Marina by the Spaniards and La Malinche by her fellow Indians and demand recognition of her as a true heroine. She certainly had as great an impact on the history of the New World as any woman, yet has been belittled and defamed by male Mexican historians.

This analysis argues that La Malinche was blamed by Mexicans for betraying the Aztecs because Mexicans have been reluctant to admit that the Aztec empire would not have fallen (and thus Mexico would not have come under Spanish colonial authority) if the other Indians in Mexico had not collaborated with the Spanish.

The historians of Mexico have wished to be able to write the history of their country as that of a people who fought bravely against the foreign invaders and who were in the end unable to succeed not through any lack of courage or any lack of a sense of their own cultural imperative but through that age-old, Biblically nuanced story of men betrayed by a woman.

One can in fact see the appeal of such a narrative - which lends to the Mexicans all of the virtues in the fight. Not only is it probably natural for people to want to consider themselves to be brave and virtuous but given the terrible cultural and political consequences that attended on the people of Mexico in the wake of colonization, it is easy to understand how the Mexicans of later generations would want someone to blame for the terrible cultural dislocations that followed colonization. And who better to blame - and has this not historically always been the case - than a woman?

Perhaps unwilling to admit that the fall of the Aztec Empire was caused largely by a revolt of the tribes they oppressed, they have made Dona Maria a scapegoat. Some have painted her as a traitor, others as a harlot. Today, she is ignored. Information about her is scarce but digging into the Spanish Archives we find the words of Hernando Cortes, conqueror of New Spain and the man she served faithfully as interpreter, secretary, confidant and mistress.

But there is another element to the original and long-enduring disregard and even hatred that has been cast upon La Malinche, one that Paz explores in nuanced analysis. La Malinche has been hated by many Mexicans until the most recent generation not because of her betrayal of the Aztecs but because of her engendering of the entire race of Mexicans.

It is because Mexicans have for so long hated themselves, hated their own mixed heritage, that they hate La Malinche, Paz argues. It is only when Mexicans come to peace with their own mestizo heritage that they can possibly come to terms with La Malinche and revere her as the founder of the race. It seems fairly certain that she was indeed Cortes's lover - but also that she was faithful to him. This should hardly brand her as a whore.

She also bore Cortes a son whom he acknowledged. Baptized Martin Cortes, he is the first "Mexican," ie, a mixture of Spanish and Indian blood, whose name and history we know.

As time went by, Cortes was offered many women. Always, he gave them to other Captains. Her…[continue]

Cite This Term Paper:

"Spanish Literature" (2002, April 16) Retrieved December 9, 2016, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/spanish-literature-130007

"Spanish Literature" 16 April 2002. Web.9 December. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/spanish-literature-130007>

"Spanish Literature", 16 April 2002, Accessed.9 December. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/spanish-literature-130007

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Death in Spanish Literature While

    In his novels he focused on characters, motivations, and reactions to the forces around his characters. He realistically examined Spanish politics, economy, religion, and family through the eyes of the middle class, addressing the cruelty of human beings against each another in his novels Miau and Misericordia. Galdos was called the conscience of Spain for his realistic observations of society with all its ills. (Columbia 2005) His plays were

  • Spanish Women and Values Within

    With the changes of gender relationships in the workplace, the problems of the patriarchal authority in the Spanish household become underlying themes in gothic literature. Questions of feminism and reconciliation within the Spanish household are brought forth and posed to the public. Gothic theorist and English author Ann Radcliffe has pinpointed the metaphorical importance of gothic themes to the woman's home predicaments. Like the Western gothic literature, Spanish "[gothic] literature

  • Spanish History Within the History and Context

    Spanish History Within the history and context of modern Spain there are many truths and questions. The divisive nature of the cultural and regional divides of Spain have long been thought to be the seeds of conflict and violence. Yet, it is clear that the strength of the nation lies in its ability to stay solidified as one, regardless of the diversity of language, history and political opinion. Each culture within

  • Spanish Colonial Africa Even as

    Spain chose, instead, to allocate its territorial expansion to the Americas. However, Spain was able to exploit its existing African holdings to supply Spanish colonies in the Americas with African slaves ("The Spanish Colonial System" par. 4). Unlike its concerted efforts in the Americas, Spain's focus in Africa was not so pointed in its colonies there, namely Spanish Guinea, Spanish Sahara, and Morocco. The majority of Spain's African colonies were

  • Spanish Irish Relations 17TH Century to

    About 140 Irish rebels were drowned as they tried to cross the Blackwater, and another 200 Irish were "lost in the river Moy and at Owen Abbey" (McGurk, 20). The defeat of the Irish rebels took just two hours, according to McGurk's reckoning, and clearly the English had prevailed which made Mountjoy a hero because so many previous English attacks had failed. Notwithstanding their victory, the English lost a

  • Spanish Armada What Did Philip

    The defeat of King Philip and the Spanish Armada brought forth several consequences for both sides of Spain and England. Even with the minimal loss of the English fleet, diseases have threatened to demoralize the English Navy aside from the irregular payments to its soldiers which is opposite to the experiences of Spain's remaining sailors who received their benefits amidst Spain's loss. The victory of England brought supremacy to the

  • Spanish Missions in California the Purpose of

    Spanish Missions in California The purpose of this paper is to introduce and discuss the Spanish missions in California between 1700 and 1800. Specifically, it will look at how the missions were founded, the Spanish motivation to found them, and the secularization of the missions. CALIFORNIA MISSIONS One of Spain's traditional ways of conquering a new country was to establish missions to bring the "savages" who lived there the "true" faith. Jesuit missionaries


Read Full Term Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved