When I was a child, I was a voracious reader. I spent a lot of time in the public library, leafing through the nonfiction books — especially the ones about women. Amelia Earhart. Harriet Tubman. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Anne Frank. I loved that their stories were real, that their lives were real. At the same time, I felt a little sad that there weren’t any books featuring women who were more like me, who had families who spoke Spanish and whose grandmothers made tortillas from scratch. The only female, other than the Virgen de Guadalupe, who was ever mentioned in any kind of historical, cultural context was La Malinche. And she was no role model. Her name was spoken with derision. It piqued my curiosity. Who was this cursed woman?
I remember asking my grandfather who La Malinche was. He said, “Una traidora.” A traitor. The only other traitor I was familiar with was Benedict Arnold because we had learned about him in history. It was exciting and a little thrilling that there was a traitor in my history, the one we didn’t learn about in school. But I picked up on my grandfather’s disdain and decided she must have been a terrible person to betray her people and her country.
Of course, history isn’t that simple and people aren’t one-dimensional. And this leads me back to: Who was La Malinche?
Malinalli. Malintzin. Doña Marina. La Malinche. She has so many names, which seems fitting because no one really knows who she was. Her story depends upon the storyteller. Facts are scarce: She lived, she died. And somewhere in the middle, she helped change the history of an entire country.
I want to learn as much as I can.