Pocahontas and La Malinche: Mirror Images and Antithetical Archetypes

Main Article Content

Amani Khelifa


This paper compares and contrasts two Indigenous figures in Mexican history and American history. La Malinche aided conquistador Hernan Cortés during his conquest of Tenochtitlan in the sixteenth century in a way similar to Pocahontas’ “rescue” of Capt. John Smith in the next century. Both women are among the earliest Indigenous figures to become mythologized in their respective nations’ history, yet the legacy they left behind is different; La Malinche’s legacy is more contentious than Pocahontas's. This paper explores the similarities their stories share and the role they play as mediators, mothers, and symbolic figures. It includes a careful study of the many ways they have been remembered since, from artistic portrayals to comparisons with biblical figures. Finally, the paper analyzes the nuances in each of their legacies and proposes one way of interpreting why the two figures have come to be regarded differently over time.