The words of her father echo in a young girl’s head: Never want what you can never have. Born on the day of the Mexican Goddess of Grass, Malinalli, she takes that name until 1519 when she begins her new Christian life as Marina, one of twenty slaves given to Conquistador Hernán Cortés after he defeats the natives of Tabasco.
Having been sold into slavery by a wicked stepfather, Malinalli has learned Mayan as well as her native tongue Nahuatl. When Cortés discovers she can speak two languages, he makes her his interpreter and keeps her constantly at his side. His soldiers admire her and give her the respectful title of Doña Marina (Lady Marina). Later, as she learns Spanish and becomes trilingual, she helps Cortés form alliances among Nahuatl speakers who hate Moctezuma II, a tyrant who has waged wars on neighboring tribes to obtain captives for human sacrifice.
Cortés and his coalition of Spanish conquistadors and Tlaxcalan warriors lead a fierce attack upon the Aztec empire, conquer Moctezuma II, and thus change the fate of Mexico and Spain forever. Although Cortés comes to love Marina, and she brings out his best qualities, he allows her to marry a hidalgo lover for her future protection. Yet Cortés and Malinalli (also called La Malinche) become a team that rebuilds a devastated nation, shapes its Christian destiny, and leaves a proud legacy for two nations that enriched each other even as they tried to destroy each other.
Helen Heightsman Gordon, MA, EdD, published five textbooks while she was a professor of English at Bakersfield College in California. In 2007, she won first prize in the Best Historical Novel category at the Hollywood Book Festival for her novel, Voice of the Vanquished: The Story of the Slave Marina and Hernan Cortés. She lives in Santa Barbara, California.