Nick Schweitzer Malintzin’s Choices Malintzin had an important role in the ancient history and colonization of Latin America. She would rise from just a simple servant girl and slave, to become one of the key factors of the Spanish colonization of the indigenous natives in the New World. She helped translate for the Spanish conquistadors and even Hernando Cortes himself. Malintzin’s interpreting skills would prove crucial in the dealings between Hernando Cortes and the Aztec emperor Montezuma. Camilla Townsend uses the story of Malintzin to display the conquest of Mexico in a different aspect and first person point of view.
It is crucial to focus on translators when it comes to understanding the conquest of Mexico. It shows how much of a cultural difference and language barrier there was between these two sides. Without translators the Spanish would never have been able to conquer Mexico and survive against the natives. They would have had a much harder time trying to trade for supplies and wouldn’t have been able to set up alliances with the natives, such as the Tlaxcala. Translators may have played an important role in the conquest of Mexico, but none more important than that of Malintzin.
She translated personally for Hernando Cortes’s and all his dealing between him and emperor Montezuma. She had a great impact in the dealings between the Spanish and the Aztecs. Malintzin a slave is now the only key Cortes has to conquering the Aztecs. For such a prominent figure as Malintzin in history it is very difficult for historians to give an accurate depiction of her. She kept no diaries making it hard for historians to understand her point of view. The Spanish also didn’t keep very many records of her especially Cortes who only mentioned her on seldom occasions.
He didn’t want to mention her to the king because it would make him seem like a less of a great conqueror. It would make him seem weaker and more vulnerable that he had to rely on a slave to communicate to the Aztecs. Historians have had trouble depicting the life of Malintzin, but Camilla Townsend uses all the information known to best depict her life. The author depicts Malintzin as a subjugation of Cortes. Malintzin used her position to help herself. She was given away as a slave at a young age. For someone like her his was her only way to escape poverty and make sure she was cared for by the Spanish. She used her skills to obtain a better life than the other 19 slaves who had been given to Cortes. She was loyal to Cortes because the Spanish had finally given her a position of power that she had never had before with the natives. “She did so only to remind her purported masters of her loyalty” (82). She was very loyal to Cortes and in fact loved him as she birthed his first son Martin Cortes. Both Malintzin and the Spanish benefited from Malintzin’s choices. Later on the Tlaxcala would benefit too.
Initially the Tlaxcala’s and the Spanish were enemies, but eventually with the help of Malintzin they were able to form an alliance in order to fight the Aztecs. “For having arranged with the Tlaxcalans to provide military reinforcements (perhaps as many as five thousand)” (79). With the aid of the Tlaxcala the Spanish where able to press on forward toward Tenochtitlan. Even though their first attack didn’t end up so well they still kept an alliance due to Malintzin that would later prove useful. Later after the Spanish conquests, they keep their word and they didn’t destroy Tlaxcala along with the majority of other native settlements.
The author described the dilemmas of the conquest of Mexico using Malintzin. Using her she is able to portray both sides in this certain time in history. She is able to discuss how both sides where dealing with this conflict and how the Spanish where taking control of the New World. Using one person’s experience and impact on certain events we are able to draw a bigger picture of what actually happened and took place. It shows how the Spanish communicated with the locals and how important it was. It showed the impact it had on the Spanish’s campaign to colonize the New World.