Likely Stories: Malinche by Laura Esquivel

Nov 28, 2019

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

As you can easily imagine I frequently browse used bookstores for hidden treasures.  I recently stumbled upon an enormous, clean, and well-organized shop.  To my surprise, the proprietor was selling most of his inventory for 4, 6, or 9 dollars.  Among that treasure trove was a slim novel, Malinche by Laura Esquivel, which recounts the genocide perpetrated on the indigenous Mexican Indians at the hands of Hernán Cortés and his Spanish soldiers.  


I recall some of the details of that historic tragedy, however, details were limited.  Laura Esquival has a reputation as “The Princess of Latin American literature.”  After reading her story, I believe she merits this title.  Malinalli is a devoted granddaughter.  Esquival writes, “The first thing Malinali learned how to make was a drinking vessel.  She was only four years old, but with great wisdom she asks her grandmother, ‘Who thought of having jars for water?’ // ‘Water herself thought it up.’ // ‘Why?’ // ‘So that she could rest upon its surface and tell us about the secrets of the universe.  She communicates with us through each puddle, each lake, each river.  She has many ways of dressing up and appearing before us, each time in a new fashion.  The mercy of the god who resides in the water invented the vessels from which, as the water quenches our thirst, it speaks to us.  All the vessels filled with water remind us that god is water and is eternal.’ // ‘Oh,’ the girl replied, surprised.  ‘The water is god?’ // ‘Yes, and so is the fire and the wind and the earth.  The earth is our mother, who feeds us, who reminds us where we came from whenever we rest upon her.  In our dreams she tells us that our bodies are earth, that our eyes are earth, and our thoughts will be earth in the wind.’ // And what does the fire say?’ // ‘Everything and nothing.’” (20-21).

When Malinalli was given away by her mother, and when her grandmother died, she was all alone.  Esquivel wrote, “The sorrow of that fateful day was greatly diminished when the following dawn, tired of weeping, she looked up at the sky and saw the Morning Star.  Her heart leaped in her chest.  She greeted her eternal friend and said a blessing.  At that moment, in spite of, her age, or perhaps because of it, Malinalli saw clearly that she had lost nothing, that there was no reason to fear, that the gods were everywhere. Not just at her home.  Here, too, where she was, a breeze blew, there were flowers, there was song. the Moon and the Morning Star were present, and at dawn the Sun also rose.” (27).  The novel is full of these tender moments.  She also came to realize her that “her grandmother had not died.  She lived in her thoughts, and she lived in the cornfields where Malinali had planted alongside her grandmother” (27).

At first, things seem calm and peaceful, but the story of destruction and slaughter were more than a young woman should have to handle.  Malinche by Laura Esquivel is a tragic story beautifully written and deserves reading to remember these Mexican people.  5 Stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!