“Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche” is on exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy., through May 8.
Visitors are welcome to contribute a six-word poem to the exhibit.
Another feature is a digital, interactive app that includes a digitized viewing of Leslie Tillett’s tapestry, “The Conquest of Mexico,” which is housed in the museum’s Art of the Ancient Americas collection.
The digital, interactive app — created by CU Denver College of Arts & Media professor Bryan Leister and his students — offers “a modern interpretation of Cortés’ 36-month long campaign in Mexico between 1519 and 1521.”
Entry to “The Legacy of La Malinche” is included in general admission to the Denver Art Museum.
To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit denverartmuseum.org.
In addition to the exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, other local institutions also have exhibitions that deal with La Malinche.
“Malinalli on the Rocks: A Latinx and Chicanx perspective of La Malinche”
Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Dr. in Denver, is presenting “Malinalli on the Rocks.”
This exhibit features 11 Latinx and Chicanx artists in Colorado and offers the opportunity to explore and re-discover Malinche’s story. The “exhibit will challenge us to reflect on how she should be remembered; what she did and represents, immortalized in the artists’ interpretations,” states the website.
Artworks include paintings, installations and mixed media works.
It is curated by Maruca G. Salazar, former executive director of Museo de las Americas.
“If we remove the patriarchal lens and Eurocentric vantage, what we confront is a powerful presence, a woman that survived (and) overcame adversity, fulfilling the destiny foretold to her parents the night that she was born,” Salazar said in a news release. “She is Malinalli Tenepal, the wild weed and the one that talks too much with enthusiasm and fluidity.”
According to a news release, the exhibit will also include “a remembrance piece for the late artist Alicia Cardenas since she was going to be part of this exhibition.” Cardenas owned Sol Tribe Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing, 56 Broadway, and is the murder victim of a Dec. 27 shooting that spanned Denver and Lakewood.
“Malinalli on the Rocks” runs through July 23. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit museo.org.
“Malintzin: Unraveled and Rewoven”
The exhibit, “Malintzin: Unraveled and Rewoven,” is a partnership between the Latino Cultural Art Center (LCAC), the University of Colorado-Denver, the CU Denver College of Arts & Media and the Denver Art Museum.
“This show exhibits current works of art, craft and design from upcycled materials to unpack a woman whose legacy has been reinterpreted and reimagined by artistic, scholar and activist communities across the U.S.-Mexican border,” states a news release on CU Denver College of Arts & Media’s website.
This installation, which complements the exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, includes fresh artwork by Denver artists Lilian Lara and Norbeto Mojardin, and CU Denver College of Arts & Media professor Bryan Leister and his students; as well as pieces from the LCAC’s Abarca Family Collection, including never before exhibited textiles. It is Lara’s curatorial debut.
“I found it important to call this show ‘Malintzin’ to use the honorific given to her by her own people as a sign of respect,” Lara said. “I want young Latina women to see this powerful woman who took a horrible situation, and through sheer wit and determination, became an immortal figure in Mexican history.”
“Malintzin: Unraveled and Rewoven” is free and open to the public through May 1. It is located at the CU Denver Experience Gallery (formerly Next Stage Gallery), 1025 13th St., which is in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
To learn more about the exhibit, visit tinyurl.com/Unraveled-and-Rewoven.
About 500 years ago, Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors captured Tenochtitlán, the great Aztec city known today as Mexico City.
While this history is well documented, Victoria Lyall, the Jan and Frederick Mayer curator of art of the ancient Americas at the Denver Art Museum, and Terezita Romo, an independent curator, did not want to talk about Cortés.
“It’s time to reconsider the Indigenous woman who was the heart of this story,” Lyall said.
Lyall is referring to a young woman named Malinche, whose legend portrays her as both a betrayer of her people and the mother of Mexico.
Lyall and Romo are two of three co-curators of the Denver Art Museum’s exhibit, “Traitor, Survivor, Icon: The Legacy of La Malinche.” The project was about six years in the making, originating in Denver. It opened in February and will end on May 8.
Following its Denver run, the show will head to Albuquerque and then San Antonio.
A purpose of the show is to revitalize Malinche’s legacy, Lyall said.
“For five centuries, Malinche has remained a contentious figure, revered and reviled on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border,” Lyall said in a news release. “She is a historical figure about which very little factual and biographical documentation exists. In examining and presenting the legacy of Malinche from the 16th century through today, we hope to illuminate the multifaceted image of a woman unable to share her own story, allowing visitors to form their own impressions of who she was and the struggles she faced.”
Malinche was born near the Gulf Coast of Mexico and was enslaved at a young age, perhaps between the ages of 11 to 16. It is believed she was eventually sold to a Mayan chief in Tabasco, a southern Mexican state with a northern coastline on the Gulf of Mexico that is near the Yucatán Peninsula.
By the time Cortés arrived in 1519, Malinche was fluent in both Yucatec and Nahuatl, the languages of the Mayan and Aztec people, respectively.
Malinche was one of 20 young women gifted to Cortés to serve as slaves to the conquistadors, but realizing the value of Malinche’s multilingualism, he took her as his personal slave.
As the Spaniards traveled inland toward Tenochtitlán, it was Malinche who played a key role as Cortés’ interpreter and cultural translator.
The exhibit at the Denver Art Museum boasts 68 artworks created by 38 artists from the U.S., Mexico and France. Among them is Denver’s own Emanuel Martinez, whose work can be found all over the Denver-metro area, as well as in other states.
There are two notable artists being featured in the exhibit. The first is Ramos Martinez, a Mexican painter who lived from 1871 to 1946 and is considered by some to be a founding father of modern Mexican art. The second is Sandy Rodriguez, a Los Angeles-based Chicana artist and researcher.
“As a figure embraced by Chicana writers and artists, Malinche is the subject of a narrative that had been reframed and recently invigorated to reflect a Chicana feminism that resists male-dominated interpretations of her life and significance,” Romo said in the news release.
While Malinche’s legacy is maligned by many — the word malinchista means to be a traitor to one’s own people — many also revere it.
Malinche eventually became Cortés’ mistress and whether complacent to it or not, she gave birth to his first-born son. That child became the first-known mestizo, a term used to describe one of a mixed race, particularly, Spanish and Indigenous descent. This makes Malinche “the symbolic progenitor of a modern Mexican nation, built on both Indigenous and Spanish heritage,” the news release said.
The Denver Art Museum exhibition begins with a video that introduces Malinche to visitors. It establishes the historical, cultural, chronological and geographical contexts behind the invasion of the Spaniards and the fall of the Aztec Empire in 1521.
The exhibit is divided into five different sections that demonstrate five identities that have been linked to Malinche during the past 500 years.The sections include:
• Malinche as La Lengua/The Interpreter
• Malinche as La Indígena/The Indigenous Woman
• Malinche as La Madre de Mestizaje/The Mother of a Mixed Race
• Malinche as La Traidora/The Traitor
• Malinche as Chicana/Contemporary Reclamations.
Malinche continues to emerge as a figure of interest, Lyall said, adding that her story is timeless. But her story has never been documented in her own words, Lyall added, so she is one of many women whose voices, historically, have been marginalized or told only by men.
Additionally, prior to 1848 when the U. S. and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the southwestern part of Colorado was Mexico. Today, at least 30% of Denver’s population identifies with Latino culture.
Malinche is “a figure they know well,” Lyall said. But even visitors to the Denver Art Museum who may not know who Malinche is will enjoy the exhibit, she added. “Once they hear her story, they will be hooked.”
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