In Los Hijos de la Malinche, Octavio Paz examines mexicanidad and the dilemma of identity among the Mexican people. What he describes is an inferiority complex in which Mexicans are torn between two separate identities, both of which they reject for different reasons. Mexicans want to be seen asmodern and civilized but have come to look on the indigenous traditions with mistrust and apprehension. Generally, they do not wish to associate themselves with what they consider to be a backward tradition nor do they want to identify with the Spaniards who conquered them by force and imposed their culture on them. The archetypal female figure, La Malinche, represents a symbol of the Mexican nationrepresenting both the fascination for the Spaniards as well as the fact that she let herself be seduced and violated by the Spanish culture. The Mexican people do not forgive her betrayal of their own origins. Even today, the term Malinchista is used pejoratively for women who are attracted to foreign tendencies or lifestyles by rejecting their own. Worthy of note is the assertion made by JeanFranco, in her book, Plotting Women in which she proposes that the problem of national identity for Paz is primarily a problem of male identity.
Certain fundamental features of national identity, discussed in Anthony D. Smith’s book, ‘National Identity’, include:
1. An historic territory or homeland
2. Common myths and historical memories
3. A common, mass public culture
He agreesthat such a provisional working definition reveals the complex and abstract nature of national identity and Mexico is no exception. Smith’s ‘fundamental features’ can be applied to the treatment of mexicanidad in Los hijos de la Malinche by Octavio Paz . By dealing with these features it is possible to explore the treatment of Mexican identity in Paz’ essay.
The first two features of nationalidentity proposed by Smith are very much a combined feature when considering Los Hijos de la Malinche. Paz suggests that national identity and the Mexican character is ‘producto de las circunstancias sociales imperantes en nuestro país; la historia de México, que es la historia de esas circunstancias, contiene la respuesta a todas las preguntas [. . .] las circunstancias históricas explican nuestrocarácter’. Paz describes a continuous conflict which pervades Mexican identity and until they fully embrace their history, where they came from and the ghosts of their past, Mexicans will only then begin the process of being able to identify a sense of who they are. In his essay on Octavio Paz ‘The Search for Mexican Identity’, Terry Hoy agrees with Paz and identifies Mexican history as theexpression of a collective inferiority complex which stems from the results of the Spanish conquest, racial mixture and a disadvantageous geographical position.. Smith further proffers that the process of self-definition of individuals in the world is a key factor for the claim of national identity and community solidarity. Vicente Lombardo Toledano would appear to dispute both Paz and Hoy’s assertions. Hebelieves that mexicanidad was only truly realised as a result of the Mexican Revolution: ‘the Revolution in a certain sense is the discovery of Mexico by Mexicans’. However, while the Revolution certainly represents a vital part of the consolidation of their identity, Paz argues that the process of mexicanidad began much earlier. Both Lombardo Toledano and Paz would appear to conform to a certaindegree to the features of national identity as put forward by Smith. Many scholars believe that the post-Revolution national government took the lead by promoting manifestations of mexicanidad. In his Encyclopedia of Mexico, Coerver acknowledges this and states that not only did the Mexican government emphasise regional differences while stressing a common mexicanidad, they also provided a...