Malinche, the Amerindian slave who accompanied Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés through his invasion of Mexico, serving as both his translator and lover, has long been reviled by the Mexicans. In a country where the "feminine" is divided very clearly along the virgin-whore polarity, the much revered Virgen de Guadalupe is often starkly juxtaposed against the traitorous Malinche, who, in giving herself to Cortés, not only facilitated the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica, but also helped to found the new mestizo or mixed-blood race through the son she had with the conquistador.
The psychological dimensions of this rejection in a country where more than 90 per cent of the people are mestizos have been extensively and fascinatingly explored by Mexican writer and Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz. Malinche herself, though, remains an enigma. Little is known about her, and that little does not allow us any insight into her motivations. Now, Paz's compatriot, Laura Esquivel, best known for her popular novel Like Water for Chocolate, has attempted to bring this controversial figure to life in a new novel, Malinche.
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