La Malinche

Without the help of La Malinche we would not have understood the language of New Spain and Mexico.

—Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España

On Higuera Street my house stands unmarked,
Stark steps of passersby are hastened
With fear locking their spine, with hatred,
While I stand Janus-like between two worlds.

You wrote me in the history a traitor
Chingada, lover of the foreign men,
Weeping Llorona, Spanish toy,
A ploy of treacherous ambition my survival.

After all,
When an empire falls
Somebody is to blame.

So you conveniently forgot
That to the Spanish men I was a Doña,
My country-men regarded me as one
With Cortés, the conquistador. Our son
Was a mestizo, just like you.

Forgot that for a single jade
My mother sold my body and blue blood—
Unwanted heir—to be a Nahua slave,
Disposed of to the Spanish traders.

With prickly pear pecks on my fingertips
Still, cocoa dust under my nails,
I then got used to smell of salt on Spanish ships,
Sharp smell of white and bearded gods
Who shrank away from water with cat-like manliness.

Forgot that all the emperor—a tyrant—
Did to protect his Aztec colossus from raid
Was order to dye bodies of the slaves
The brightest shade of blue and carve
Them empty chested, blood sucked out,
(For the megalith corn-man in the sky
Sitting sate and benevolent),
Tumble them down the temple steps.

When silenced fathers of the sacrificed

Stood up to form—yes, you forgot—
Alliances instead of shedding blood
By my trilingual words inspired,
Somebody was to blame for the fall of the empire
As you look back,
Who better than a woman, slave, and dead?

*This poem won the Worcester County Poetry Association College Poetry Contest 2014 Manuscript Prize