Dying once is enough for most, Malinalli on the other hand, had to die over and over again. At the very start of her life she proved she could survive anything. Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and mouth, serpent-like, representing the god Quetzalcoatl. She died at the age of five when her mother sold her heart’s freedom for much less than one pays for quetzal feathers. She was reborn as Marina, and then Marina died when she met Cortes, and La Malinche was born in the hands of Cortes. Malinalli stayed alive within Marina, La Malinche, The Tongue. Malinalli remained herself in every new life she was thrown in.
Mother knows best, that’s what everyone always says, but when your mother thinks she should sell you as a slave because your dad died, maybe Grandmother knows best. Malinalli’s abuela remained her sanity, her happiness. She saw at the start of Malinalli’s life that she would be a survivor for the rest of her time, as she “sensed that the girl was destined to lose everything so that she might gain everything.,” on page 5. Her grandmother saw even more without the use of her eyes, and she was right when she saw that Malinalli would experience great losses in order to experience true happiness. Malinalli’s first loss was her freedom, but she survived with the help of her gods, and the morning star. “From the time they had first given her away as a very young girl, Malinalli had learned to conquer the fear of the unknown by relying on the familiar, on the brilliant star that would appear at her window…” It is evident page 19 that after experiencing loss, Malinalli can gain the skills to survive it, and she often times already has the skills thanks to her all-knowing abuela.
As La Malinche travels to Tenochtitlan, silent and uncomplaining, she uses her survival skills, and draws out Malinalli from her soul. “Migration is an act of survival,” that is what Malinalli’s grandmother said to her when admiring butterflies on page 92. Malinalli remembers this when she needs it most, when she is suffering from hypothermia and is about to witnesses horrible death. Malinalli is always migrating, be it from slave owner to slave owner, or with Cortes, conquering alongside him. She becomes one of the butterflies her abuela took her to see, changing names, creating cocoons for herself, born into a new life each time, surviving. Migrating involves leaving everything behind, or as her abuela predicted, losing everything, leaving behind a life, in turn for eventually, a better one.
The better life, the one The Tongue was always translating for, the one La Malinche helped Cortes for, the one Malinalli finally got, with Jaramillo, her husband, and Maria and Martin. It is this life that Malinalli finally, once again herself as she was as a child, allowed herself to die in. This life, finally full of all the happiness she lost, is the one that allowed Malinalli to be one with the gods, the elements, the stars. “Her spirit became one with the water. It scattered in the air. Her skin expanded to the limit, allowing her to change shape and become one with everything that surrounded her…She abandoned this world.” Only a survivor can avoid death for so long, then to choose when they do leave world, as Malinalli did on page 185.
Sold into slavery by her own mother, given no other options but to help Cortes, translated for the ruler who demands sacrifice and blood-shed, and thought of with shame in one’s heart, through La Malinche, Malinalli survived. Malinalli was born in such a way that it was clear that she would have to lose everything to gain everything, and she did, many times, over and over. Such feats only a survivor could live through, and one day die through, and throughout it all, “Malinalli saw clearly that she had lost nothing, that there was no reason to fear…” (p. 27)