Women of Mexico: the Consecrated and the Commoners, 1519-1900.

Author:Mujica, Barbara

Women of Mexico: The Consecrated and the Commoners, 1519-1900, by Bobette Gugliotta (California: Floricanto Press, 1989). Women of Mexico goes a long way toward dispelling some commonly held notions about Latin women. Far from passive and retiring, the women that fill Gugliotta's pages are dynamic, strong-willed and thoroughly involved in the events of their times. Gugliotta examines the lives of diverse types of women--nuns, princesses, society ladies, prostitutes--whose contributions to Mexican history, although significant, have often gone unrecognized. Indians, mestizas, Blacks, Europeans and criollas, these women have all played influential roles in a man's world, some by cooperating with men and working side by side with them, others by going against the mainstream.

The book begins with the Conquest and takes us through the struggle for independence and up to the twentieth century. The feminist movement has done much to shed light on the current situation of women in Mexico. There are socioeconomic, fertility and literacy studies, as well as pertinent, informative novels. However, little material is readily accessible on the period covered by Women in Mexico.

Among the most fascinating biographies is that of Malinche, Hernan Cortes' much maligned Indian mistress. Often blamed for the betrayal of her people to the Spanish conquistadors, Malinche served as Cortes' translator and was instrumental in achieving Moctezuma's submission. Gugliotta remains removed from the political aspects of the Conquest, favoring neither the conquerors nor the conquered. Instead, she focuses on Malinche's shrewdness, her stamina and her negotiating skills. A gift to the Spaniards from a chief whose people Cortes had conquered, Malinche accompanied the Spanish soldiers from town to town and even into battle. She spoke the languages of the Aztecs and Mayas, while Cortes man Jeronimo de Aguilar spoke Mayan and Spanish. Aguilar translated Cortes' demands into Mayan and Malinche then translated them into Nahuatl for Moctezuma. The only woman present at the delicate negotiating sessions, it was up to her to soften and reconstruct Cortes' words, and to use her own powers of persuasion to convince the Aztec emperor to capitulate....

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