Reading Group Guide
In Malinche Laura Esquivel reimagines the relationship between the Spaniard Hernán Cortés and the Indian woman Malinalli, his interpreter and mistress during his conquest of the Aztecs. Malinalli meets Cortés and, like many, including the Aztec King Montezuma, suspects that he is the returning forefather god of their tribe, Quetzalcoatl. She assumes that her task is to welcome Cortés/Quetzalcoatl and help him destroy the Aztec empire and free her people, but she gradually comes to realize that Cortés's thirst for conquest is all too human.
Throughout Mexican history, Malinalli has been reviled for her betrayal of the Indian people. But recent historical research has shown that her role was much more complex. She was the mediator between two cultures, Hispanic and Native American, and three languages, Spanish, Mayan, and Náhuatl. She was also a slave, trying to rebel against the barbarous culture of her masters -- the Aztecs. But her loyalty was to her own people, whom she was trying to set free.
Laura Esquivel challenges the traditional mythology through a character-driven portrait of the Adam and Eve of mestizo culture, Cortés and Malinalli, with the backdrop of the fall of the Aztec Empire. Told with the lyricism of the Náhuatl song tradition and pictorial language, she gives us a creation myth of the new world hybrid culture and a legendary affair.
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