Poem, La Malinche

A well-known Chicana poem about Malinche. Tafolla took inspiration from the famous 1967 poem of the Chicano movement, “Yo Soy Joaquín,” but rewrites from an explicitly feminist perspective. The poem addresses the scene of European colonization, charting Malinche’s fate—as conquered woman, traitor, invincible survivor. Tafolla heightens the tension between traitor and survivor, raped slave and mother of la raza by writing as if Malinche herself was recounting her own history. Since none of Malinche’s 16th-century words have survived, the poem lends Malinche both an indomitable personality and powerful voice; she becomes a living figure, to be reckoned with in the present, and not merely a haunting ghost from the past.

Source: Tafolla, Carmen. “La Malinche.” 1978. In Infinite Divisions: An Anthology of Chicana Literature. Edited by Tey Diana Rebolledo and Eliana Rivero. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1993. First published 1978 in Canto al Pueblo: Anthology of Experiences by Texas: Penca Books.

La Malinche
Carmen Tafolla

Yo soy la Malinche.

My people called me Malintzín Tenepal
the Spaniards called me Doña Marina

I came to be known as Malinche
and Malinche came to mean traitor.

they called me—chingada
(Ha— ¡Chingada! ¡Screwed!)

Of noble ancestry, for whatever that means,
I was sold into slavery by MY ROYAL FAMILY—so
that my brother could get my inheritance.

. . . And then the omens began—a god, a new civilization,
the downfall of our empire.
And you came.
My dear Hernán Cortés, to share your “civilization”
—to play a god, ... and I began to dream . . .
I saw
and I acted.

I saw our world
And I saw yours
And I saw—

And yes—I helped you—against Emperor Moctezuma
Xocoyotzín himself.
I became Interpreter, Advisor, and lover.
They could not imagine me dealing on a level
with you—so they said I was raped, used,

But I saw our world
and your world
and another.

No one else could see
Beyond one world, none existed.
And you yourself cried the night
the city burned
and burned at your orders.
The most beautiful city on earth
in flames.
You cried broken tears the night you saw
your destruction.

My homeland ached within me
(but I saw another).

Mother world
a world yet to be born.
And our child was born ...
and I was immortalized Chingada!

Years later, you took away my child (my sweet
mestizo new world child)
to raise him in your world
You still didn’t see.
You still didn’t see.
And history would call me

But Chingada I was not.
Not tricked, not screwed, not traitor.
For I was not traitor to myself—
I saw a dream
and I reached it.
Another world………
la raza.
La raaaaa-zaaaaa . . .