Spanish and Portuguese ETDs


Elena Avilés

Publication Date



Chicana feminist literary and artistic cultural production since the second half of the twentieth century is characterized with a critical sensibility commissioning the arts to actively interrogate how cultural mores misconstrue female identity. By questioning the miss'-representation of cultural myths and images, Chicanas expose the patriarchal language and hegemonic discourse that code and sign cultural icons. Chicana feminist interrogations of traditional representations of La Malinche illustrate how signs are a construction, and thus, indefinite and plastic, like language. By combining various methodologies such as semiotics, visual analysis, cultural and feminist studies, this study underscores the significance of the development of feminist critical, poetic and visual language to Chicana revisionist representations of the figure of La Malinche. The theme of language use in Chicana reinterpretations of La Malinche offers an innovative conceptualization to the advancement of Chicana language practices as a strategy to critically examine the gendered and cultural aesthetics of identity. This dissertation examines how Chicanas manipulate heritage through a 'thick description' of the interpretation of culture in the signification of 'language' (La Malinche) and in their own language use in order to alter interpretations of Chicana identity. The analysis of Chicana feminist representations of La Malinche is a study of how women traverse the borderlands of literary and artistic practices to gain visibility and voice. I evaluate the interrelationships between Chicana critics, artists and writers, drawing from art historians and literary critics to show how literature and art empowered women to work toward a metalinguistic awareness of self. The relationships and intersections between the textual and visual representation on La Malinche demonstrate an often-unrecognized dialectical relationship among writers and artists and literary critics and art historians. Ongoing representations of La Malinche reflect the continuance of innovative, original and imaginative forms of speaking about Chicana identity that reveals the dialogic and heteroglot nature of Chicana voices, as Chicana placas, a concept I call the development of a Chicana lengua franca.

Degree Name

Spanish & Portuguese (PhD)

Level of Degree


Department Name

Spanish and Portuguese

First Committee Member (Chair)

Rebolledo, Tey Diana

Second Committee Member

Barnet-Sanchez, Holly

Third Committee Member

Gaspar de Alba, Alicia




Chicana, Art, Literature, La Malinche, Placas, Representation

Document Type