Artist in Residency -Yohanna M Roa
Pocahontas and La Malinche are among the first indigenous figures to have been mythologized. Considered the mothers of crossbreeding in America, they have been, at once, captivating and misunderstood characters. Both came from noble families; Pocahontas, Matoaka, and Amonute; she was eventually renamed Rebecca. Malinche, Malintzin, and Marina obtained the respectful title of Doña Marina. They did not leave behind any document or primary source; what has been said about them has been constituted mainly by male European authors: Hernán Cortés, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, and John Smith. Even though both La Malinche and Pocahontas had similar life trajectories—in good part due to the discourses built around them—they have been used to support ideas of homeland and nation as well as stipulating contextual relations and control over the body and the role of women in both countries, Mexico and the United States. While for American culture, Pocahontas represents the idea of “the good Indian” who received, protected, and loved a European man, La Malinche in Mexico, is remembered as a traitor for the same reasons. Initially, hanging around English society, Pocahontas exchanged her wild nature for a sense of civility; years later, during her independence process, her figure was allocated in rhetoric that sought to forge a particular historical national identity in the United States. La Malinche’s case is the opposite; she was demoted from interpreter, adviser, and lover of Cortés to that traitor to her race. Peculiarly both Pocahontas and La Malinche died very young from diseases of European origin.
Yohanna M. Roa’s performance interrogates the categories imposed upon these two figures, and she delves into the problem of ‘Who’ wrote this (or the) indigenous history, ‘Who’ survived long enough to (re)tell these stories? And for what purpose the stories of these two women have been instituted in the nationalist discourse of both countries?
Images credits: Details performance Yohanna M Roa, 2023.Photos by Robin Michaels