Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Interview with Laura Esquivel

And in a twist as strange (or magical) as fiction, Esquivel is launching in Miami her new novel, Malinche -- an imaginary account of the life of Malinalli, the native woman who was conquistador Hernán Cortés' translator and lover during the conquest of Mexico -- before she does so in her beloved Mexico.
''Así es,'' Esquivel says.
So it is in this multicultural world.
Simon & Schuster's Atria Books is publishing Esquivel's novel in both Spanish and English before Santillana -- the Spanish publisher who approached Esquivel with the idea of fictionalizing the life of one of Mexico's most controversial characters -- does so in Mexico and the rest of Latin America later this year. (The U.S. Spanish-language edition is out; the English, translated by Ernesto Mestre-Reed, will arrive in May).
In Miami, where Esquivel was welcomed last month by the Florida Center for the Literary Arts and given a book signing party by the Mexican high-art Coral Gables boutique Pineda Covalin, the 55-year-old novelist's book and message has been well received.
But it remains to be seen what will happen in Mexico, where ''La Malinche'' is widely considered a traitor for helping Cortés, and as an Eve of sorts, the perpetrator of Mexico's original sin. Malinchismo is a term used to express disdain against someone who sides with foreigners, who joins ``the enemy.''
Esquivel's sympathetic characterization and her call to revise history and embrace the Conquest as ''the beginning of a new and wonderful culture'' may not fare as well.
Esquivel portrays Malinche as an intelligent woman, who after being sold by her mother into slavery as child, took on the job of being ''The Tongue'' to save her people from slaughter -- and from Montezuma's practice of sacrificing humans to the Gods.
''She was convinced that it was necessary to overthrow the Aztec Empire, which had betrayed the spiritual legacy of her Mayan ancestors, and most of all, the worship of Quetzalcóatl,'' Esquivel says.
At first Malinalli also believes Cortés is the reincarnation of Quetzalcóatl.
``She saw in Cortés the hope of liberation.''
Esquivel says she's not fearful of negative reaction.
''Leaving fear behind is what this project is all about,'' she says.
She spent two years researching Malinche's life with the help of her husband Javier Valdés. The only original documents about Malinche's life are a few pages from Conquest diaries, Esquivel said, but she didn't stop there, embarking on extensive investigation of ancient Mayan culture, history and religion.
''My job was to imagine Malinalli's personality and how she interpreted what she saw and experienced,'' Esquivel says. ``Before you judge a person's behavior you have to analyze their beliefs.''
Esquivel also invented one of the book's most extraordinary characters -- Malinalli's grandmother, who guides her when her widowed mother abandons her to live with a younger man. The old woman represents ''the wisdom of the indigenous culture and their powerful vision of the spiritual world,'' Esquivel says.

You can find the interview here

But Malinche at Amazon.com

Buy Malinche at Amazon.com (in Spanish)

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