Abstract

One of the most famous figures in the conquest of Mexico, Malintzin, also known as La Malinche and Doña Marina, has been described in ethnohistorical accounts as an interpreter who came from slavery. But what if this assertion of Malintzin’s origins was a result of cultural confusion, or simply untrue? This article closely examines ethnohistorical sources and their description of Malintzin’s origins. Could cultural bias or cultural misunderstanding be present within them? How might these biases affect our reading of Malintzin’s supposed slave status? The article explores the role of exchange, political marriage, gift giving, and polygyny in Maya and Aztec culture to add further context to Malintzin’s transfer from Indigenous to Conquistador society. It theorizes that Malintzin was never intended to be given to the Spanish invaders as a slave but rather as a bride.

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