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La Malinche (c.1505 - c.1529), known also as Malintzin and Doña Marina, was a Native American woman (almost certainly Nahua) from the Mexican Gulf Coast, who accompanied Hernán Cortés and played an active and powerful role in the Spanish conquest of Mexico, acting as interpreter, advisor and intermediary. She was mistress to Cortés, and bore him a son. In Mexico today, Malinche remains iconically potent, seen in various often conflicting aspects, including: the embodiment of treachery, the quintissential victim ("La Chingada"), or simply as symbolic mother of the new Mexican "race".

Malinche enters the conquest story in April of 1519, when she is among twenty slave women given by the Chontal Maya of Potonchan (in the present-day state of Tabasco) to the triumphant Spaniards. Within several weeks, according to surviving indigenous and Spanish sources, the young woman had begun acting as interpreter, translating between Nahuatl language (the lingua franca of central Mexico) and Yucatec Maya language, a language understood by the Spanish priest, Aguilar, who had spent several years in captivity among the Maya people following a shipwreck. By the end of the year, when the Spaniards had installed themselves at the Mexican capital, Tenochtitlan, it is apparent that the woman, now called "Malintzin" by the Indians, had learned enough Spanish to be translating directly between Cortés and the Mexica (Aztecs). The Indians, significantly, also call Cortés "Malintzin," an indication, perhaps, of how closely connected they had become. Following the fall of Tenochtitlan in late 1521 and the birth of her son, Don Martín Cortés, Malinche disappears from the record until Cortés' nearly disastrous Honduran expedition of 1524–6 when she is seen serving again as interpreter (suggestive of a knowledge of Maya dialects beyond Chontal and Yucatecan.) It is here, in the forests of central Yucatan, that she married Juan Jaramillo, a wealthy conquistador. Little or nothing more is known about her after this, even the year of her death, 1529, being somewhat in dispute.