Published Date

May 1, 2004

Resource Type

Primary Source

This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “The Conquest of Mexico” by Nancy Fitch.


Jose Clemente Orozco’s Cortes and Malinche

This is probably José Clemente Orozco’s most famous piece of public art. In this fresco Cortés and Malinche are starkly nude, carnal yet akin to Adam and Eve, sitting over the figure of a prostrate, perhaps degenerate, Mexico, the product of miscegenation, the mixing of races. With his arm across her, it is not clear whether Cortés is restraining her or protecting her. It is clear that Malinche is being portrayed here as the mother of modern Mexico. It is unclear if the artist believes this is good or bad. The contrast between the whiteness of Cortés and the brown skin of Malinche and the one they are sitting over is deliberate.

Step One

Make some observations about what is included in the image.

  • Who can you identify?
  • Where are they located in the image?
  • How are they dressed?
  • What is the center of this image?

Step Two

Ask yourself some questions about what you see in the image.

  • What is the story being told in this image?
  • What are the similarities between this story and what you just read on the previous page?
  • What are the differences between this story and what you just read?
  • How do you account for the differences in the various stories?

Step Three

Write your own interpretation of what Orozco thought of Malinche based on the evidence.