Friday, April 09, 2010

La India Catalina -- The Colombian Malinche?

Juan de Castellanos was a 16th century poet and priest. He was born in Spain, but spent much of his life in Cartagena and Tunja. He is most remembered for his epic poem "Elegías de Varones ilustres de Indias", which tells the story of the Spanish conquest of what is today Colombia. There we read about the India Catalina:

Una india llamada Catalina
An Indian named Catalina

Desde Santo Domingo se traía
From Santo Domingo was brought

Y era de Zamba, pueblo que confina
And she was Zamba, a people that are found

Con los que viven esta bahía
Amongst those that live in this bay (today Galerazamba North of Cartagena)

En lengua castellana muy ladina
In the Castilllian language a very smooth talker

Y que la destas gentes entendía
And in the (language) that these people understood

La cual de esta costa presa
Who from this coast was taken prisoner

Siendo muchacha, Diego Nicuesa
As a young girl, by Diego Nicuesa


Castellanos helped to immortalize the sad, but true story of a young girl who had been kidnapped by Diego de Nicuesa and taken to Santo Domingo, There, as a slave, she learned to speak Spanish, as well as dress, act, and worship like her captors. Later, she was taken by Pedro de Heredia to assist in his conquest of the tribes surrounding Cartagena by acting as an interpreter.

With Catalina's translation help, Heredia was able to conquer many of the Indian groups surrounding Cartagena with the Calamari Indians being completely annihilated.

Later, Catalina would marry Pedro de Heredias' nephew, Alonso Montañés. She returned with her husband to Sevilla, Spain and was lost to any further historical mention.

Today, a statue in her honor can be found in Cartagena,

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