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La Malinche, the interpreter and controversial character

Much has been said about this important character; however, some of the stories that revolve around it are not entirely true. Therefore, today we will tell you who La Malinche really was, the interpreter of Cortés.

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The history of La Malinche

Malinalli was better known as La Malinche or Doña Marina by the Spanish. She was born in 1500 near Coatzacoalco, an Olmec capital located southwest of the Aztec Empire. Since her birth, her life was full of wealth, because her father was ruler of the city of Painala.


When her father died, her mother married a local, begetting a man who would be the heir of all wealth. Thus, they stripped Malinalli of any promising future.

The couple sold little Malinalli to some merchants, who sold her to Mr. de Potonchán. The latter was the one who delivered her to Hernán Cortés in March 1519, with another nineteen maidens.

These types of practices were very common in pre-Hispanic times and were a fundamental part of the Aztecs’ customs. Some of them were destined for domestic service and others, as concubines. But before this, Cortes ordered them to be baptized, since the Spanish law only allowed them to maintain relationships between Christian people.

Baptized as the official interpreter

Without further do, Malinalli was renamed Marina and in the process, they discovered that Marina, in addition to Maya, spoke Nahuatl, the language of Mexicans.

When they had the opportunity, Cortes captains used Malinalli as an interpreter, that later turned out to be a decisive translation system for the advancement of Spanish troops.


With her help, they could easily communicate with the natives. They also had the possibility of knowing the internal situation of each group, in addition to earning their loyalty above Moctezuma

Thus, Malinalli’s future changed completely. Even, Cortes promised her that if she was her faithful interpreter, he would make her a great mercy, marry her and release her.

Traitor or savior?

Soon, Malinche became Hernán Cortés’ lover, and thanks to her interaction with the indigenous groups, in Cholula, she saved the Spaniards from death by revealing them the plan of the Indians. While in Tenochtitlán, she made possible the conversations between Moctezuma and Cortés.

At the end of the conquest, she had a son with Cortés whom they called Martin, but because of how the conqueror’s wife arrived, he decided to marry her with another conqueror, a gentleman named Juan Jaramillo.

With this, Cortes paid her what he promised and released her, in addition to granting Huilotlán and Tetiquipac, which were due by inheritance. She had another daughter with her husband, but she never saw her son again, since he was taken with a close relative of Hernán.

So far, her cause of death and date, or her whereabouts after her second child are unknown. However, thanks to her we can say that the conquest was less painful and it was faster than it would have been without her help.

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Barbara García

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