It has been said that prior to baptism, her Nahuatl calendrical name had been Mali:nalli (“bunch of grass”) and that Marina was the Spanish name closest to that in pronunciation, but this is unlikely.
, was the multilingual indigenous woman who provided to Hernán Cortés the means of communication necessary to carry Spanish conquest to the heart of 16th-century Mesoamerica.
While very young she fell into the hands of Cortés and his men.
Her best hope for survival was to make herself useful and agreeable, a strategy she had already learned prior to the arrival of the Spaniards on the scene.
In the course of events, she asserted active common cause with the men who held her captive.
For that, as La Malinche she has been punished for what seems to be all eternity.
Her life experience uniquely prepared her for her role as the most effective and trusted of all the interpreters of the conquest.
During the siege of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs rejected the first interpreter the Spaniards sent to parley with them, and Cortés had to dispatch a boat to the city of Texcoco to fetch Marina before negotiations could go forward.
Her task required both multilingualism and mastery of “lordly speech,” the complicated mode of expression used by Mesoamerican nobility.
These two skills would have been uncommon in a young man, but they should have been entirely nonexistent in a young woman.
Daughters of Mesoamerican nobility lived very restricted lives.
Closely guarded, they were rarely permitted to leave their residences, and they were prohibited from speaking freely.