.. e slaughtered in the imminent attack, the old woman suggested, Marina should gather possessions and seek refuge at the old woman’s house, where, later, she could marry the woman’s son. Marina pretended to accept the offerbut put the old woman off until night, warning her that Cortes’ troops were on guard and would hear them.
Marina then pumped the woman for more informationThe woman’s husband, it turned out, was a Tlaxcalan captain who had, along with others, received gifts from the wily Moctezuma to help ambush Cortes (Adams 8). The information she was able to get from the old woman protected hundreds of Spanish from bloodshed. Another person La Malinche negotiated with was the great Montezuma himself. She played an intricate role in the negotiations between the two leaders.
Cortes used her expertise to “help penetrate the final treachery, the theft of an empire.” (Adams 10) It was in his presence that La Malinche showed her noble background. The use of indirect metaphors played a large part in the polite form of Nahuatl. The fact that she understood this “lordly language” supported the idea that she had been born in the upper tiers of native society. Her noble upbringing also enabled her to look into Montezuma’s eyes, something that even Cortes’ men could not accomplish. “She dared to address herself directly to Montezuma in order to translate for Cortes bespeaks raw courage [while his men] kept their eyes lowered with great reverence.” (Karttunen 11) She understood the cultures of both groups, and used her intelligence to please her master. Montezuma had only a couple of minor weaknesses in his clutch of power.
She knew of his fear in the Spanish, who he saw as white gods walking on the earth. He believed that the god Quetzalcoatl had returned through Cortes; he was too blinded by faith to see the future destruction. She also knew of the hatred that other tribes had towards him and the Aztecs. Montezuma ruled with an iron fist; all of the natives feared him (Karttunen 13).
As a result, she advised Cortes to hold him captive until he surrendered. She knew that, with each passing day, he would lose his influence over his people (Cypress 36). In 1520, the Spanish rebelled against the natives and overran Mexico. Montezuma died during the battle, possibly at the hands of his own men (Cypress 36). The Spanish had conquered Mexico.
History ignored La Malinche after the fall of Techntitlan. Cortes left La Malinche behind, for his Spanish wife had recently moved to Cuba. At this point, she was pregnant and alone. Her marriage to Juan Jaramillo was a result of a drunken match concocted by Cortes. This marriage completed her assimilation into Spanish society.
The aspect that proved that La Malinche did not intentionally betray her people was her child with Cortes. Unlike the other natives who were raped and left for dead, La Malinche carried the child with love. Her loyalty to the man allowed her to open her body and carry this child. If she had not loved Cortes, she could have followed the other women and taken the herbs to induce a miscarriage. But, she did not. Instead, after Cortes left her to fend for herself, she “replaces loyalty to her lover with that of devotion to her childshe rids her image of the evil Eve and becomes the Virgin Mary” (Cypress 113).
The child that she had with Cortes was the first mestizo in Mexican society. The child, Don Martin, was symbolic in that he was a combination of both the old and the new Mexico. Celestino Gorostiza saw this as “an icon of unity. La Malincheand the child constitute a unit that symbolizes the united future of Mexico” (Cypress 112). She created a new ethnic group without knowing the impact that it would cause. Don Martin, who was named after his grandfather, grew to be the link between the natives and Spanish.
His mother died while he was a child, so as a result, he spent most of his life in Spain under the guidance of Cortes’ cousin. He became a knight of St. James. “War was to be Martin’s profession, and according to tradition, the moors were to be the instrument of his demise.” (Karttunen 306) Like his mother, Don Martin was wrongly accused of betrayal. When the Spanish had arrested him for conspiracy, his heritage singled him out. He suffered unspoken torture.
There, in his native Mexico, Dona Marina’s son was stretched on the rack, his limbs wound with cords that were tightenedcutting into the scars of the wounds he had received fighting in the service of the king and country Pitcherful after pitcherful of water was forced down his throat, and still he refused to admit that he had ever taken part in a conspiracy against Spanish authority (Karttunen 307). Like his mother, the majority misinterpreted his loyalty to his homeland. He would also come to an untimely death. La Malinche was a positive mother figure before her premature death. Gorostiza re-enacted the announcement of the arrival of her child during a confrontation with Cuauhtemoc.
“Within my body a being has started to form that has neither your blood nor mine. Nor the blood of Cortes. It is a new being who wants to live and whose presence gives new meaning to my life. As for him, I cannot betray him! For him I shall live and fight against everything and against everybody, in spite of all the threats, all the punishments, all the sufferings, even martyrdomeven death!” (Cypress 113) She sacrificed whatever life she could have had, in order to make the life of her child better than her own. However, this sacrifice proves to be futile, for she died young. Another sacrifice that La Malinche made in her life was her pride.
At one point in her life, she came in contact with her mother and half-brother. Rather than have them killed in an act of revenge for her childhood, she chose to forgive them with all of her heart. When Dona Marina saw them in tears, she consoled them and told them to have no fear, that when they had given her over to the men from Xicalango, they knew not what they were doing, and she forgave them for doing that, and she gave them many jewels of gold and raiment, and told them to return to their town, and said that God had been very gracious to her in freeing her from the worship of idols and making her a Christian, and letting her bear a son to her lord and master Cortes (Karttunen 18). She could not find it in her heart to hate; instead she forgave and praised her mother for giving her up for a better life.
Throughout her life, La Malinche was surrounded by myths of betrayal and hatred. The natives believed that she had helped destroyed their civilization. The Spanish used her as a pawn in their quest for Mexico. In reality, she was the one betrayed. She loved and lost. Her ability to translate was not a curse meant to hurt people; rather, it was supposed to unify two nations together.
Her love for Cortes was a result of him placing her on his level. The natives feared her because of her association with the man. This fear quickly turned to hate. Cortes took advantage of her loyalty and used it for his personal gain.
This hurt her more than being neglected by her own people. She did not love the natives, for they had used her from the time she was a young slave. In the end, both races took advantage of her. Today, many modern Mexicans still do things to take advantage of La Malinche. Though she is the mother of modern Mexico, her children resent her actions.
They blame her for all of Mexico’s domestic problems. “Mexican feminists say she isat the root of much of the disdain Mexican men display toward Mexican women, expressed in the country’s high rates of infidelity and domestic violence” (Krauss B10). However, without La Malinche, there would have never been a modern Mexico. Her child created Mexicans as they are today.
It is not fair that she is blamed for all their problems. As Mexican psychologist Juana Armanda Aldgria states, “La Malinche was the only important woman during the conquest of Mexico, and in that role, she deserves to be reconsidered. History has not been just to Dona Marina” (Cypress 2). Works Cited Adams, Jerome R.
Liberators and Patriots of Latin America. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 1991. Cypress, Sandra Messinger. La Malinche in Mexican Literature-From History to Myth.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991 Krauss, Clifford. “A Historical Figure is Still Hated by Many in Mexico”. New York Times. 26 March 1997: B10 Karttunen, Frances.
Between Worlds: Interpreters, Guides, and Survivors. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994. Sanchez, Marta E. “La Malinche at the Intersection: Race and Gender in Down These Mean Streets”. Publication of the Modern Language Association 113 (1998): 117-28 Todorov, Tzvetan. The Conquest of America.
New York: Harper Perennial, 1984. Annotated Bibliography Liberators and Patriots of Latin America: This book gave a good overview of La Malinche’s life. It also helped clear up some misconceptions about her. La Malinche in Mexican Literature-From History to Myth: This book was the primary source to this paper. It presented all views of La Malinche’s legacy.
“A Historical Figure is Still Hated by Many in Mexico”: This article presented a modern view of La Malinche and shows the antipathy Mexicans still feel. The Conquest of America: This showed Aztec life before Cortes destroyed it. I needed this book to show the poor treatment of Aztec women before Cortes came. Honors Proseminar Daniel Gabriel 4 May 1998.