Mexicans have struggled for their own distinct identity since the effects of the Spanish Colonization.
In The Labyrinth of Solitude, famous Mexican poet and writer Octavio Paz examines the psychological history of the Mexican people in order to shed light on certain aspects of their complex and fragmented nature and behavior. Paz claims that by analyzing these past events in Mexican history one can make important observations and deductions about Mexican culture.
The Conquest of the Mexican Territory and the Malinche
The most drastic historical event has been the conquest of the Spaniards and the introduction of different mentalities and of the Catholic religion and tradition to the indigenous people. When Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, entered Mexican territory, a young woman, Doña Marina, later called Malinche, was his personal translator and later became his lover.
Mexicans are still wary of her participation and collaboration with the conqueror. In fact, she gave birth to a son who is considered one of the first Mestizos, bridging and mixing two distinctly different traditions.
The Mexican Problem of Origin, Tradition, and Identity
Paz reveals the following dilemma among the Mexican people. They are torn between two separate identities, both of which they reject for different reasons. Mexicans wanting to be seen as modern and civilized have come to look with mistrust and apprehension on the indigenous traditions. Generally, they wish not to relate themselves with what they often consider and look upon as a backward tradition.
Neither do they want to identify with the Spaniards who have conquered them by force and imposed Spanish culture on them. The Malinche represents both the fascination for the Spaniards as well as the fact that she let herself be seduced and violated by the Spanish culture. The Mexican people do not forgive her betrayal of their own origins and even today the term Malinchista is used pejoratively for women who are attracted to foreign tendencies or lifestyles by rejecting their own.
The Figure of the Holy and Violated Motherhood
It is in this context that the figure of the Mother becomes ambivalent. On one side, she is the nurturing religious figure who succors all the Mexican people, often identified in its purest form as the Virgin Guadalupe, whereas on the other side as the symbolic mother of the nation she is often regarded and referred to as the “Chingada”, signifying the violated mother.
Mexicans have been struggling between two opposing traditions, the indigenous and the Spanish culture. They are the sons and offspring of both traditions, yet they have managed to create a new kind of and distinctly Mexican culture by combining certain elements of each tradition.