Velvet Barrios pp 295-307 | Cite as

Velvet Malinche

Fantasies of “the” Aztec Princess in the Chicana/o Sexual Imagination
  • Catrióna Rueda Esquibél
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)


Cherrie Moraga lays claim to an economy of desire shared not along the lines of sexual orientation, but through a cultural imaginary that crosses borders between the United States and Mexico. Moraga’s claim provokes me to explore Chicana lesbian representations that are clearly inspired by certain sexual spectacles that circulate through the Chicano and Mexican communities of “South Texas, L.A. or even Sonora, México.”


Indian Woman Native Woman Mexican Community Decorative Scheme Black Velvet 
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  1. 3.
    See Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters: Europe & the Native Caribbean, 1492–1797 (New York and London: Methuen, 1986). “The major feature of this myth is the ideal of cultural harmony through romance” (141). “This myth of Pocahontas has its own interest… Strictly speaking it is a product of the early nineteenth-century search for a … national heritage” (141). “It is difficult to disentangle the confluence of the literary topos of the ‘enamoured princess’ from the historical examples, of whom Pocahontas and Malinche are only the best known. Much can be put down to male fantasy …” (300, n. 15). While Mexican nationalism in the nineteenth century displaced the “cultural harmony through romance” myth for La Malinche, in the case of Pocahontas the myth is still very much a part of U.S. cultural identity. “The final resolution of the colonial triangle [is] a splitting of the problematic third term, a severance of niece [Pocahontas] and [her] uncle [Algonquin leader Opechankanough, blamed for the 1622 ‘massacre’ of the Virginia colonists], available female and hostile male, ‘good’ Indian and ‘bad’ Indian, which leaves Pocahontas to be mythologized” and her uncle vilified (170).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Rafael Pérez-Torres, Movements in Chicano Poetry: Against Myths, Against Margins (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 191. Other variations of this myth suggest that Popocatépetl was not from a rival tribe but of “plebeian” origin (Calendarios Landin, 1998). Pérez-Torres’s retelling of this myth indicates that Popo is “guarding [Ixta’s] pregnant body” (191). I have omitted the reference to the pregnancy in the quote above, as I have not found it elsewhere, and also because the paintings themselves give no indication of pregnancy. At the same time, this variation could serve to mark the Aztec Princess further as a sexual body: She is no virgin princess.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 8.
    Norma Alarcón, “Chicana Feminism: In the Tracks of ‘the’ Native Woman,” in Living Chicana Theory ed. Carla Trujillo (Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1998), 374.Google Scholar
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    For further discussions of Native American women in the Anglo American imaginary, see Rayna Green, “The Pocahontas Perplex: The Image of Indian Women in American Culture,” Massachusetts Review 16 (1975): 698–714Google Scholar
  5. Mary V. Dearborn, Pocahontas’s Daughters (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986)Google Scholar
  6. Leslie Fiedler, The Return of the Vanishing American (New York: Stein and Day, 1968).Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    See Sandra Messinger Cypess, La Malinche in Mexican Literature from History to Myth (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991), chapters 1–3.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, “Grafica/Urban Iconography,” in Chicano Expressions: A New View in American Art ed. Inverna Lockpez et al. (New York: INTAR Latin American Gallery, 1986), 21.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    Lawrence M. Yanez, Cocina Jaiteca (Los Angeles: Self Help Graphics, 1988).Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    Victor Burgin, “Looking at Photographs,” in Thinking Photography (London: Macmillan, 1982), 143, emphasis added.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 24.
    Angie Chabram Dernersesian, “I Throw Punches for My Race, but I Don’t Want to Be a Man: Writing Us—Chica-nos/Chicanas—Into the Movement Script,” in Cultural Studies ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), 81.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Jennifer Heath, Black Velvet: The Art We Love to Hate (San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1994).Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    Alicia Gaspar de Alba, “La Mariscal,” in The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories (Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1993), 46.Google Scholar
  14. 41.
    For an analysis of how sex is intertwined with the colonial imaginary, see Emma Pérez, The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), particularly chapters 2 and 5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alicia Gaspar de Alba 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catrióna Rueda Esquibél

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