How someone is treated and how they treat others has the capability to change the way the public views them – are they a traitor? a victim? In the book Malinche by Laura Esquivel, Mexican historical figure and legend Malinalli (later given the name Malinche) proves to be a survivor in more ways than one.
From the beginning Malinche is thought to already have been fighting for her life, due to complications at her birth. “…Suddenly, a small head poked out from between its mother’s legs with the umbilical cord caught in its mouth, as if a snake was gagging the infant.” [p.4] With her grandmother’s help, Malinche was able to be disentangled from the cord and enter the world safely. Her grandmother took this as a message from the god Quetzalcóatl, who was the giver of life and promised Malinche’s survival.
During her time as a slave under Hernan Cortés’s rule, Malinche had to translate conversations between Cortés and Aztec leaders, as his primary weakness was his inability to communicate efficiently with natives. Malinche was responsible for his success throughout his expeditions in the New World, and was able to tell him when native troops were going to surprise him and his fleet with an attack, which helped him prepare in advance. This eventually led to the slaughtering of over six thousand natives, which she was lucky to escape. “Who could guarantee those who respected nothing would respect her life?” [p.97]
Not only has Malinche been a survivor in very literal life or death situations, but in uhealthy relationships as well. Cortés, as her husband and boss, was abusive to Malinche both mentally and physically. At one point he took advantage of her body, and later on he ignored her and gave her away to another man due to his own selfishness and seeing her as a distraction, telling him to “feel her heart, her touch, her hair, because from here on, she is yours.” [p.157] Not only did she have his son, Martín, but Cortés took their child away from her, leaving him to grow up thinking another woman was his mother. A mother being separated from her son is a form of psychological abuse, as you’re taking away the person they’ll always care and worry about for years and years.
Throughout the book, Cortés treats Malinche as more of an object than a person, very rarely allowing her to express her opinions or to act as she wished. In both life versus death situations and in personal relationships with Spaniards, Malinche was a survivor.