Sold into slavery by a wicked stepfather, Malinalli learns Mayan in addition to her native Nahuatl. Given to Hernan Cortes in 1519, she learns Spanish and becomes his interpreter, helping him to defeat the Aztecs and spread Christianity throughout Mexico to replace the bloodthirsty Sun God of the Aztecs.
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Without Hernan Cortes, Malinalli would have been crushed by her ambitious, ruthless step-father. Without Malinalli,(also called Dona Marina after her Christian baptism), Cortes could never have toppled the tyrannical rule of Moctezuma II. Together, they rebuilt a devastated nation, shaped its Christian destiny, and created their son from a love deeper than a master and a slave are ever supposed to know.
These authentic, fully human historical characters interact with realistic fictional characters to
immerse us in the pre-Columbian world of Mexico and Cuba. In this stratified world, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, men and women, seek to understand each other and risk the pains of love. They build precarious relationships within a physical world plagued by earthquakes, storms, and famines. They find courage to survive within a culture obsessed with war, bloodthirsty gods, and human sacrifice.
After her death, Malinalli-Marina is demonized as "La Malinche the Traitress", but her true story shows that she should be revered as a loyal and courageous heroine who made the best of what few choices she had in life.
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"I'll come right to the point," Cortes said. You've had an offer of marriage. Juan Jaramillo wants to buy you from me."
Marina felt pangs of fear. "Would you sell me?"
Cortes stroked her long, shiny hair as he replied, "Of course not! But I'm prepared to give you away."
Marina's anxiety increased. "Why would you give me away? What have I done? Have I displeased you?"
"You've never displeased me," Cortes replied emphatically. "However, I have been selfish,and I want to please you for a change. I need to know what you really want."
Marina's comprehension was functioning on two levels. His words sounded clear and simple, but what did they really mean? Had Hernan finally realized how one-sided their love was, and would Juan's proposal stimulate him into making a similar offer? Or was her master angry with her, toying with her in some devious way?
She began to question her own motives. Had she been foolish to accept the yellow flower from Juan that morning? Had Hernan heard about it? And why was she wearing it in her hair now --to please Hernan, or to please Juan?
Her father's words came into her mind once more: "Never want what you can never have, Malinalli." How unyielding was the fence those words had placed around her life? Would she be throwing away a chance for happiness by never daring to reach for it, imprisoning herself by never daring to ask freely for what she wanted? For a few seconds she pondered her predicament; then she answered . . . .