History : Aug-Sep 2015
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 9 La Malinche: The Key That Unlocked Mexico Jerónimo de Aguilar to translate. Aguilar had been shipwrecked off the Yucatán Peninsula, where he had learned the Maya language. But the Aztec spoke Nahuatl. Though Aguilar was unable to understand the Aztec, it became apparent that Marina could. Nahuatl was her native tongue, and she also spoke Maya, the language of her Potonchán masters. According to a chronicle, “Cortés spoke to Aguilar, Aguilar spoke to the Indian woman, and the Indian woman spoke to the Indians.” This process, though cumbersome, made communication possible and would play a decisive role in Cortés’s success. It allowed him to talk to natives and question them about their political situation and allegiances, assessing their fears, hopes, strengths, and weaknesses. A master politician, Cortés used this knowledge, and his own persuasive words, to exploit tensions within the em- pire and win allies to fight Moctezuma. An Ally and a Lover Marina’s position changed immediately. Cortés told her “if she was a faithful interpreter, he would do her great kindness, marry her, and grant her freedom.” While a chronicle describes the 19-year-old Marina as being as “beautiful as a goddess,” contemporary sketches of her reveal little of this. However, Cortés wasted no time in making Marina his lover. Perhaps to make matters easier, Cortés ordered Portocarrero back to Spain, bearing a letter to the king. From now on Hernán Cortés and Doña Marina worked very closely together, so closely in fact that according to fellow ORONOZ/ALBUM MALINALLI’S FIRST meeting with Hernán Cortés, as fancifully depicted in the 16th- century Duran Codex.