In this interview with Carolina Monsivais (poet and co-founder of the El Paso Women’s Writing Collective), poeta Michelle Otero discusses her new book, Malinche’s Daughter. In this collection of essays, Otero draws on the figure of Malinche as she details her own journey dealing with child sexual abuse.
I don’t remember the first time I heard her name—it seems she’s always existed on the margins of my consciousness—but I remember feeling it should be whispered. She was one of those women, like the No Name Aunt in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. I’ve always been drawn to these figures, particularly the women—the ones who talk too much or don’t talk enough, the ones shunned by their communities, the ones who have somehow brought shame upon their people.
I wanted to call things what they are. The Spaniards didn’t arrive in the Americas. They invaded. Malinche was not Cortés’s lover. She was his property. He owned her. Their relationship wasn’t based on equality, but on domination. Where there is domination, there is no love.
I wanted Malinche to know across time that someone has her back. This is what I’ve wanted when I’ve felt the backlash of speaking the truth about racism or sexism or patriarchal violence, someone who will say, “I hear you,” and will stand by you as people call you disloyal or ungrateful.
I’m a writer. I have a voice. That’s an incredible privilege. I feel I have a responsibility to leverage that privilege for good—to speak the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, to stop patriarchal violence, and ultimately, to heal. Continued
Professor Norma Cantú writes that Otero’s stories “…take us to Mexico and back, but it is also a trip to the past and to spaces of conflict and tension, finally coming home to that space where we are “born and re-born.”