Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 39

Malinche: The Voice of a Nation 35 Bartolome de Olmedo baptized her in 1519. She helped Christianize the indigenous people, and lived her life as an exemplary Christian. Diaz always referred to her respectfully as Dona Marina. Bernardino Sahagün, a Franciscan friar, arrived in New Spain in 1529 and spent fifty years studying Aztec culture. He wrote The War o f Conquest: How It Was Waged Here in Mexico based on oral interviews, Codices, and pictoglyphic books o f the Aztecs. Sandra M essinger Cypess, Professor o f Latin American Literature at the University o f Maryland, considers him the first ethnographer and anthropologist (La Malinche 15). Sahagün related this poignant Observation: “Then word came which pierced M ontezuma’s heart: that a woman o f our own race was bringing the Spaniards toward Mexico, was interpreting for them, a woman named Marina” (20). The illustrations in Sahagün’s account place Malinche in the center o f the scene. Stylized tongues indicate she is the Speaker. She wears her hair in the style o f an upper d ass Aztec woman. Her omamented huipil reinforces her Status. The Aztec artists clearly depicted her role in the Conquest as one o f leadership. William Prescott, the English Historian, relied on the writings o f the Chroniclers for his History o f Mexico (1843). He depicted the consort o f Cortes as charming and generous, a “lively genius” who leamed Spanish in four days. He declared: “She leamed it more readily, as it was the language o f love” (296). His account stated that the Spaniards “always held her in grateful remembrance for her aid” and that the “natives appreciated the kindness and sympathy, she showed them in their misfortunes” (333). After this assertion, he dropped any discussion o f Malinche in favor o f a detailed analysis o f the military prowess o f Cortes. Historians generally agree that Malinche was bom around 1502. Her father was the cacique (chief) o f a Nahuatl (Aztec) speaking village. She enjoyed a comfortable life and education befitting a member o f the m ling dass. This all changed when she was seven or eight years old. Her father died. Her mother remarried and had a son. M alinche’s mother sold her as a slave to the leader o f Potonchan, a Mayan Settlement, to clear the way for her new son’s inheritance. Cortes landed in the Yucatan in 1519. He used flintlocks, crossbows, cannons and mounted horsemen to frighten and demoralize a much larger force o f warriors from the city o f Potonchan. In defeat, the indigenous people presented the Spaniards with food, gifts, and twenty women, among them seventeen-year-old Malinche.