HIST 215: Colonial Latin America
September 25, 2013
Camilla Townsend, Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006).
Malintzin, also referred to as Malinche and Doña Marina, remains a significant conundrum in the history of the conquest of Mexico. Commonly viewed as a traitor by the indigenous people and their descendants, her name has been tarnished and continues to yield a negative connotation. With minimal and, often, conflicting documentation of Malintzin’s life, historians have found it difficult to piece together her true involvement in the conquest of Mexico. With zealous effort and passion, Camilla Townsend attempts to shed some light on this enigma in her novel, Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico. In many ways, Townsend retells the conquest through the eyes of the indigenous people, more specifically Malintzin. Through her integration of Spanish and indigenous sources, Townsend argues that Malintzin was not simply a traitor and mistress to Hernando Cortés, but a brave, resourceful survivor who faced complicated choices.
Upon reading Malintzin’s Choices, one first notices the unique style of narration and integration use of sources. Townsend meets a colossal challenge in her efforts to narrate the conquest of Mexico with specific emphasis on Malintzin’s role. Most modern conceptions of the conquest are derived from Spanish documents. Townsend combines sources from both varieties (Spanish and indigenous) and focuses on the historical context to propose new ideas regarding the indigenous role in the conquest. “What I have tried to write, then, is a book about contexts. In effect, despite the focus on Malintzin, it is more than the story of one woman’s life; it is an exploration of indigenous experience in her era” (8). Her novel reads like a story, but also a historical text packed with captivating details surrounding both sides of the conquest....
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