The Native American woman Malinche can be defined in a positive light, as first mediator between native and foreign cultures.
It is often argued whether Malinche was either a traitor or a heroine to her country. After her function as a translator between the Aztecs and the Spanish and the resulting downfall of the Aztec Empire it is easy to say that she actually betrayed Mexico. Helping Cortés to communicate with Montezuma and the Indians in general, ensured the Spanish a great advantage towards their Mexican enemies. Malinche provided Cortés with the ability to understand not only the Aztec’s language, but also their way of thinking (Eakin 2007: 67). She translated the Nahuatl language into Mayan, so that Gerónimo de Aguilar could then translate the matter into Spanish for Cortés (Kidwell 1992: 99). In addition, she was able to listen and pass on the Aztec’s intentions and dissensions (Eakin 2007: 67). In The Conquest of New Spain Bernal Diáz de Castillo described the significance of Malinche for the Spanish. He wrote , “without the help of Doña Marina we could not have understood the language of New Spain and Mexico” (Carrasco 2008: 51). It is therefore undeniable that Malinche contributed to the conquest of her mother country Mexico. Immediately the question arises: What made her help Cortés?
Taking a look at Malinche’s life before meeting Cortés it becomes very clear that she had no happy relationship to her country. From the day she was born, Malinche, a native of Coatzacoalcos, was being abused. When she was still a little girl, her father died. Soon, Malinche’s mother married another man and bore him a son. Since he should become the heir of the family, Malinche’s mother sold her to some Indians in Xicalango. In order to keep a clean slate, she pretended her daughter had died (all from Randall 1994: 8). Taking all those circumstances into account, one can hardly say that Malinche betrayed her own people. For the Mexican people to whom she never meant anything, were actually not her people. In fact, she did not belong anywhere. This might be a significant factor why she felt so drawn to Cortés and his men. When she was given to them as a slave, she might have hoped to start a new life, away from her Mexican past. After she was given the task to serve as a translator, a job which only she was able to perform, she became important for the first time in her life. It does not need much fancy to imagine how she must have felt at this moment. Finally, she was worth something.