The Spanish Monologue During The Spanish Conquest Of Mexico

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What is the language of conquest? What language do people speak when they battle for land and autonomy, or meet to negotiate? During the conquest of Mexico, Spanish and Nahuatl—the mother tongues of the conquistadors and the Mexica—grew newly powerful. Maya, Otomí and hundreds of other languages were spoken in Mesoamerica in the early 16th century. Yet Hernán Cortés understood only Spanish. Whenever he met with indigenous allies or confronted enemies, whenever he solicited food for his men or sought directions across mountainous terrain, he relied upon perilous and delicate acts of translation. In the early days, Spanish was translated to Maya and then to Nahuatl, later it would be Nahuatl to Spanish or the reverse. From 1519 to 1526, Cortés trusted in the translations and counsel of a woman, and she traveled across Mexico by his side. Her name was doña Marina in Spanish, Malintzin in Nahuatl. Today she is often Malinche.

Doña Marina’s Biography
In 1519, shortly after Cortés arrived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, this young woman was one of 20 slaves offered the Spanish conquistadors by a Maya lord. Baptized Marina, she distinguished herself in extraordinary ways, becoming instrumental to the Spaniards’ logistical ambitions and political endeavors. She served as translator, negotiator and
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In 16th-century sources, they found neither victim nor traitor but the strength of a survivor. Malinche did not choose her destiny, but neither did she crumble in the face of adversity. Poems by Adaljiza Sosa-Ridell and Carmen Tafolla explore Malinche’s fate and her abilities to negotiate difficult and competing cultural demands. Their narratives also grapple with the violence of colonization—in history, in Mexico and in the United States. The histories they tell are histories of indigenous and Chicana women, but also of shifting political

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