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Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in
the Conquest of Mexico by Camila Townsend is remotely about an indigenous woman,
who had a very complex life, and her role during the conquest-era in
Mesoamerica. Her own people traded her as a slave and called her a traitor. Townsend
reaches these goals of presenting Malintzin’s true purpose and side of the
story by assimilating and explaining the complexities of her gender and ethnic
identity, her role in the conquest and describing the lives of her descendants
as well. While placing some emphasis on Malintzin’s inner life by asking how
she might have understood and what she might have thought about the many dramatic
events that shaped her life, the book is primarily an examination of the
process of conquest, emphasizing indigenous perspectives and experiences.

The displacing of Cortés is more than
just a rhetorical strategy, because Camila Townsend demonstrates Malintzin’s
significant role not only as a consort, but as a strategist and translator for
Cortés. Throughout the book, Townsend uses cultural and historical evidence to
describe Malintzin’s actions and scrutinize the reasons to why she made the
decisions she did. When the Spanish went to Tenochtitlan, Malintzin’s writes
“it most likely did not seem incomprehensible to her that this group of
strangers was determined to cross the land, find Moctezuma, and attempt to
conquer him” (page 54).

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The author, Townsend, considers how
without Malintzin’s participation in the conquest as a translator for the
Spanish is the reason for Cortés’s success, stating “it seems equally sure that
had she not existed, some other Spaniard on some other expedition would have
come across another woman much like Malinche, for she was a typical product of
the Mesoamerican world as it was then” (page 6). At first, her life was
certainly typical, according to text, but after 1519, her life turned for the
interesting. Because there was no other female that played a vital role in the
conquest of Mexico, this made Malintzin’s life unconventional. There were no
other female translators at the time that had this impact, at least not one
that had been recorded.

The book privileges these severely
compromised historical subjects to consider how relations of male and female
intimacy formed an integral part of both Malintzin’s and Cortés’s life. Because
of that relation, it has also changed the lives of many after her critical
importance to Mexico. In my opinion, Malintzin used her gender to provoke Cortés
into doing things out of her own selfishness, which was quite brilliant. Malintzin’s
Choices researches the most fascinating and controversial figures from Mexico’s
early past. This is a great analysis of Mexico’s conquest and its aftermath.
Camilla Townsend gives specific focus to Malintzin’s life and how she pilots
the power relations of both the Aztecs and the Spanish, who actually sold her
as a slave. Townsend emphasizes on how Malintzin started as a slave and became
a scapegoat for Mexican nationalists. She became fundamentally important in the
language conversion and ended up marrying another Spaniard, despite what her
people did to her. 

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