Over the weekend I visited the Denver Art Museum for a member preview of their newest exhibit; Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche. I had no idea what the exhibit was about, I assumed it was something religious because the portrait that was used for the advertisement seemed so. And I also thought it was French art history.
La Malinche was actually a woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast who played a vital role during the invasion of the Spaniards in Mexico in the early 1500s. At a young age, she was given to the Spaniards as a slave. Out of the twenty young women that were enslaved, La Malinche was chosen to be a translator and advisor for the conquistador Hérnan Cortés.
It was with La Malinche that the first known Mestizos were born, she had two children with Cortés; Martín and Maria. Mestizos are people born of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry.
Besides the history of who and what La Malinche did, the exhibit is careful to clear up the negative perception that people, who are familiar with her history, had of her; which was of being a traitor to her country. For many years, they saw her as someone who handed Mexico to the Spaniards.
Since the 1970s, artists and writers have been painting her in a different light, showing her vulnerability and bravery against the Spaniards. The Denver Art Museum’s exhibit showcases a variety of historical and modern pieces to educate the public on who La Malinche truly was.
A couple of the standout pieces were the embroidered, silk banner The Tapestry of the Conquest of Mexico by Leslie Tillet and the portrait that I mentioned about earlier, La Malinche (Young Girl of Yalala Oaxaca) by Alfredo Ramos Martínez. The Tapestry is a lengthy piece with text and scenes. Martínez’s portrait invites you to entertain the idea of La Malinche as a traitor and makes you wonder what you would have done if you were in her shoes.