As the female protagonist of The Plumed Serpent, Kate Leslie is a complex character whose personal and social concerns combine in her involvement in early twentieth-century Mexican political conflicts. Kate is Irish, and her late husband had been active in Irish anti-colonial struggles against English control. As she readily connects the Irish and indigenous Mexicans’ situation, she empathizes with Cipriano, Ramón, and their supporters. Another dimension of her Irish heritage is a strong interest in ancient Celtic traditions, and she also sees parallels with the myths about Quetzalcoatl and other ancient deities that the Mexican revolutionaries invoke.
The highly sensitive woman seems to have more passion than common sense. When her American cousin, Owen Rhys, decides to leave because the situation threatens to get out of hand, Kate decides to stay. Her social conscience is almost inseparable from her personal feelings, which increasingly center on Cipriano. The dark forces that had repulsed her now prove a source of inescapable attraction. She not only marries Cipriano, who believes he is the incarnation of the deity Huitzilopochtli, but takes on the identity of Malintzin, a female warrior goddess. Although she becomes horrified as the violence increases, including the sacrificial murders that Cipriano carries out, she finds herself unable to leave her adopted country.