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Explaining Unusual Spanish Terms: The Meaning Of Malinchism

Explaining Unusual Spanish Terms: The Meaning Of Malinchism October 27, 2017

As a native Spanish speaker who was raised in Latin America I heard the term “Malinchism” a lot. It’s a neat term and I think it’d be cool to explain it to non-Spanish speakers who might have never heard it before. Also I like a lot of Spanish slang (I actually don’t know if everyone who knows about Malinchism thinks it’s slang, I’ve always thought it was and if you knew about it and didn’t consider it slang I’d love to hear that as well) and from time to time I’ll probably create a post on here explaining one or more neat Spanish slang terms or expressions. If you like this sort of content you should definitely let me know!

I had a hard time finding a picture that could capture Malinchism so have this picture of Mexico's flag instead. Image credit: Pixabay.
I had a hard time finding a picture that could capture Malinchism so have this picture of Mexico’s flag instead. Image credit: Pixabay.

The Origin Of Malinchism:

If you know even a little bit of Mexican colonial history you’ll have heard of La Malinche. If you haven’t here’s a very basic synopsis of her history: Malinche is an infamous figure in Mexican history, who according to a bare-bones understanding of history was a woman who played a critical role in assisting Hernan Cortes in taking over the Aztec Empire (this ignores the fact that she was given to Cortes as a slave and as part of the surrender of the people of Tabasco and much of what she did could be seen and understood as her making the best of the terrible situation she was in rather than some ruthless ambition or even a particular preference for all things Spanish). She served as an interpreter, aide, and mistress to Cortes (she would eventually give birth to a son named Martin whose father is accepted as being Cortes) and her assistance was vital to ensuring that the Spanish understood the allegiances of the Indigenous inhabitants of the area they sought to conquer as well as had the capabilities to respond to the events that occurred around them. She’s credited with alerting Cortes of a planned ambush in the area of Cholula (which some believe was never going to happen but was rather a plot by Cortes to instill fear in the Indigenous people of the region) which led Cortes to slaughter many of the area’s inhabitants and is probably one of the most specific reasons as to why Malinche provokes such a strong reaction among some Mexicans even possibly to this day. To emphasize this point I’ll leave you with this article about a statue of Malinche, her son, and Cortes up which includes the reaction by protesters at the time.

The Meaning Of Malinchism:

Malinchism means an attraction to the foreign (both foreign goods and foreign culture) at its most simplistic and least insulting. That being said Malinchism is almost universally meant to hint that whoever is accused of it likes foreign things and culture MORE than they like their own culture and things from their nation. Malinchism is often an xenophobic term used to insult people who have made statements or done actions that could be interpreted as indicative of someone not having patriotism or at least not being sufficiently patriotic. As a child whenever I heard the term being used to describe someone I understood that whoever was using the term was describing the person they applied it to as a kind of racial or national traitor. It’s a heavy term but it’s also a neat term worth knowing and considering because I’m not sure if there’s any term in English that means the same aside from race-traitor (and that’s only when it’s used at it’s very strongest).

Malinchism is a strong term but that doesn’t mean each usage of it should be taken seriously (although in an ideal world this sort of term wouldn’t be used at all). Just yesterday Mexican comedian Sofia Nino de Rivera posted a photo to Instagram where she said a 4 minute clip of hers went viral and has been seen 5 million times on Facebook. In this clip from her Netflix special “Sofia Nino de Rivera: Exposed” she describes three kinds of Mexican food (FlautasChilaquiles, Soupes) as being tortillas with cheese, cream, salsa, and people add beans, and chicken with the difference between the three being their sizes. It seems many viewers were annoyed with that and said she knew nothing about Mexican food and that she was a Malinchista. I get why this provoked this reaction, but given that this was comedy and she is Mexican I don’t think this is a merited reaction. Of course if you disagree with me you can let me know, but comedy is comedy and self-deprecating humor (included humor which pokes fun at one’s country of origin) shouldn’t be seen as admissions of a lack of patriotism nor should it be seen as someone loving another country’s goods too much. If you want to see the clip click down below (this version is shorter than the version she’s talking about though). If you want to see it in Netflix the segment begins at 56 minutes and 55 seconds in if you don’t feel like watching the entire thing.

What do you think of Malinchism? Had you heard this term before? If you have some insights to recommend or want to provide your own I’d love to hear them!

P.S.: A neat article in Spanish on this topic can be found here. It talks about the difficulties of Malinchism in a multicultural and interconnected world and points out that there’s nothing wrong with liking foreign things as long as it doesn’t cause an internal rejection of things from one’s home country.

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