Poemas para el Día de la Independencia: perspectivas frescas sobre Malinalli / Doña Marina / Malintzin / La Malinche – de los poetas Rosario Castellanos y Claribel Alegría


Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974, México)

“La Malinche”


Desde el sillón del mando mi madre dijo: “Ha muerto”.


Ya se dejó caer, como abatida,

en los brazos del otro, usurpador, padrastro

que la sostuvo no con el respeto

que el siervo da a la majestad de reina

sino con ese abajamiento mutuo

en que se humillan ambos, los amantes, los cómplices.


Desde la Plaza de los Intercambios

mi madre anunció: “Ha muerto”.


La balanza

se sostuvo un instante sin moverse

y el grano de cacao quedó quieto en el arca

y el sol permanecía en la mitad del cielo

como aguardando un signo

que fue, cuando partió como una flecha,

el ay agudo de las plañideras.


“Se deshojó la flor de muchos pétalos,

se evaporó el perfume,

se consumió la llama de la antorcha.


Una niña regresa, escarbando, al lugar

en el que la partera depositó su ombligo.


Regresa al Sitio de los que Vivieron.


Reconoce a su padre asesinado,

ay, ay, ay, con veneno, con puñal,

con trampa ante sus pies, con lazo de horca.


Se toman de la mano y caminan, caminan

perdiéndose en la niebla.”


Tal era el llanto y las lamentaciones

sobre algún cuerpo anónimo; un cadáver

que no era el mío porque yo, vendida

a mercaderes, iba como esclava,

como nadie, al destierro.


Arrojada, expulsada

del reino, del palacio y de la entraña tibia

de la que me dio a luz en tálamo legítimo

y que me aborreció porque yo era su igual

en figura y rango

y se contempló en mí y odió su imagen

y destrozó el espejo contra el suelo.


Yo avanzo hacia el destino entre cadenas

y dejo atrás lo que todavía escucho:

los fúnebres rumores con los que se me entierra.


Y la voz de mi madre con lágrimas ¡con lágrimas!

que decreta mi muerte.


.     .     .

El poema “La Malinche” – del poemario Poesía no eres tú (1972) – es uno de varios textos de Castellanos que revisa y reinterpreta figuras famosas femeninas.

.     .     .


Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974, México)

“La Malinche”


From her royal throne my mother announced: “She is dead”.


And then she collapsed, humbled,

in the arms of the other, the usurper, my stepfather

who sustained her not with the respect

a servant owes to the majesty of a queen

but with the mutual submissiveness

with which lovers, accomplices, abase themselves.


From the Plaza de los Intercambios

my mother announced: “She is dead.”


The scale

remained immobile for an instant

the cacao bean reposed quietly in its chest

the sun stood still in the sky’s zenith

as if awaiting a sign

which was, when it shot out like an arrow,

the penetrating cry of the mourners.


“The many-petaled flower has withered

the perfume has evaporated

the torch’s flame extinguished.


A girl returns, scratching at

the spot where the midwife left her navel.


She returns to the Place of Those who have Lived.


She beholds her father, murdered,

ay, ay, ay, with poison, with a dagger,

with a trap set before his feet, with a hangman’s noose.


Taken by the hand, she and they walk, they walk,

losing themselves in the fog.”


Such was the weeping and lamentation

over an anonymous corpse; a cadaver

that was not mine, because I, sold to

the merchants, went forth to exile like a slave,

a pariah.


Expelled, cast out from

the kingdom, from the palace and warmth

of her who gave honest birth to me

and who despised me because I was her equal

in figure and rank

she who saw herself in me and hated her image

and dashed the mirror to the ground.


I go, in chains, toward my destiny

and am followed still by the sounds

of the mournful chants with which they bury me.


And the voice of my mother in tears – in tears! –

that decries my death.



Translation from Spanish into English:  © Julian Palley, 1988



Claribel Alegría (nace 1924, Nicaragua/El Salvador)

“La Malinche”


Estoy aquí

en el banquillo de los acusados

dicen que soy traidora

¿a quién he traicionado?

era una niña aún

cuando mi padre

es decir

mi padrastro

temiendo que su hijo

no heredara las tierras

que a mí correspondían

me condujo hacia el sur

y me entregó a extraños

que no hablaban mi lengua.

Terminé de crecer en esa tribu

les servía de esclava

y llegaron los blancos

y me entregaron a los blancos.

¿Qué significa para ustedes

la palabra traición?

¿Acaso no fui yo la traicionada?

¿Quién de los míos vino a mi defensa

cuando el primer blanco me violó

cuando fui obligada

a besar su falo

de rodillas

cuando sentí mi cuerpo desgarrarse

y junto a él mi alma?

Fidelidad me exigen

ni siquiera conmigo

he podido ser fiel.

Antes de florecer

se me secó el amor

es un niño en mi vientre

que nunca vio la luz

¿Qué traicioné a mi patria?

Mi patria son los míos

y me entregaron ellos.

¿A quién rendirle cuentas?

¿A quién?


¿a quién?




Claribel Alegría (born 1924, Nicaragua/El Salvador)

“La Malinche”


Here I am

In “the dock”…

They say I’m a traitor,

Who have I betrayed?

I was just a little girl

When my father

(that is, my stepfather)

Fearing that his son

Would not inherit his lands

– lands to which I was entitled –

led me away to the south

And handed me over to strangers

Who didn’t speak my language.

I stopped growing in that tribe,

I served as slave.

And white people arrived

And I was handed over to them.

What does the word betrayal mean to all of you?

Wasn’t I the betrayed one?

Who of my people came to my defence

When the first white man violated me,

When I was made to kiss his phallus,

Down on my knees,

When I felt my body torn

And my soul right next to him?

Loyalty you demand of me

When I have not even been able to be true to myself.

Before blooming

I was already dessicated by Love.

There’s a child in my womb

who never saw the light.

In what way did I betray my homeland?

My country is my people

– and they abandoned me.

Who will account for that?


All of you, tell me – who?



Alegría translation from Spanish into English:   Alexander Best


La Malinche – born Malinalli, of Nahua parentage, in 1496 – was sold as a teenager by her mother and step-father to slave-traders – from whom she learned the Mayan language.  She ended up as one of many “gifts” to recently-arrived “conquistador” Hernán Cortés, in 1519.  She proved invaluable to him;  her knowledge of both Náhuatl (the language of the Aztecs’ Empire) and of the neighbouring Maya meant that she could interpret for Cortés in his dealings with officials of both Peoples, thereby gaining the upper hand for Spain.  Her fluency in Spanish soon followed, and in 1522, Doña Marina (her Christian baptism name, with the word “Lady” (Doña) before it) or Malintzin (as she was called respectfully by the Nahuas) bore a son by Cortés.  His name was Martín, and he is said to symbolize the first true Mexican, being “mestizo” (“mixed race” of white/amerindian).  Historians are in disagreement over the date of Malintzin’s death – 1529 or 1551.  At any rate, Cortés was an ambitious and greedy man-in-a-hurry and he did not remain with Malintzin;  yet she had been supremely useful to him – and to “el Imperio español”/The Spanish Empire, which was then in its initial surges of power.

Like The Virgin of Guadalupe La Malinche is a cultural icon in México – but unlike “Our Lady” she is also viewed negatively.

While she is seen as the “womb” of Mestizaje – the on-going union of different races and cultures – she is also, unfairly many contemporary scholars believe –  a symbol of the “betrayal” of Indigenous Peoples – the Mexicas, the Tlaxcalans, the Totonacs, the Chichimecas – the lot.

The flashpoint is her multilinguality:  ¡Traductora, traidora!  Translator — Traitor!

This is a great deal for one woman to bear.  And poets Rosario Castellanos and Claribel Alegría understand such a fact – so they have allowed Malintzin to “speak” in our era instead of only “interpreting” for others in centuries past…