Malinalli, as she was named when she was born, had been given away several times in her life. First her mother gave her away because she did not want to be reminded of Malinalli’s father. Then her grandmother took care of her and taught Malinalli all she knew. She learned to respect the Earth, the wind, fire, water, and so forth. She learned about the gods. She learned about Quetzalcóatl. She learned the stories of her people.
As Malinalli grew, she was traded again. This time she came to serve the Spanish men that had come to the land. She was baptized and given a new name Marina, but she could not pronounce the “r” and called herself Malina. From there she served under Hernan Cortes. Their relationship soon became more than one of master and slave. Malina, as she was now known, was a translator for Cortes. People believed that Quetzalcóatl had come back.
This belief was used to conquer the Aztec empire. Cortes marched on Tenochtitlan. Montezuma, the great leader, was killed in the assault. Treasures of the people were destroyed.
The relationship between Cortes and Malina continued. She had his son and watched as her land got colonized by Spaniards. She later married a man named Jarmillo and had a family.
What I liked
I liked the history in this book. Obviously, every word in this book is not historical. We don’t really know what words may have passed between Malinalli and Cortes or what thoughts may have run through her head. This book shows me a different side of the conquest of Mexico. It’s a more sympathetic view of the native peoples there. In truth, we should be sympathetic to these native peoples, even though they practiced human sacrifice, because their culture was destroyed. Many people lost their lives. The Spanish went in and destroyed and destroyed and destroyed. Malinalli was a real person and I would like to learn more about her. It’s a bit sad that the word “malinchismo,” taken from Malinalli’s name now means a person who may be something of a traitor or just someone who goes their own way.
What I didn’t like
The book did not flow as a person would expect it to. It wasn’t exactly easy to read. Malinalli is not treated well, which would be keeping in how a slave was treated, but it’s still not pleasant to read about. This book is very different from Like Water for Chocolate, also by Laura. It’s not exactly a slow-moving book, it’s just not easy to read.
Whether she was good or bad, who knows?
Is it sad that the Mayan and Aztec cultures were so wiped out?
Is Malinalli a traitor, a hero, or a victim?