While researching Malinche's Conquest, Anna Lanyon discovered Malinche had a son, Martin Cortes, remembered by Mexicans as the first mestizo, and was compelled to investigate his story as it is as great an adventure as his mother's. It is a story of journeys between worlds: those of Indian mother and Spanish father, of the Americas and Europe, of feudal past and colonial future. It is also
Martin Cortes was the illegitimate son of the conquistador Hernan Cortes and the indigenous American woman who translated for him - the legendary Malinche.
Martin was born into a new world, when Europeans were discovering theirs was not the only world - a time of hybridity, when cultures were transplanted and new mixtures of races began, when globalisation first became a possibility. Martin's destiny was to cross these worlds in many ways. Taken from his mother as an infant (shades of Australia's 'stolen children'), he was raised in Cuba by paternal relatives. At six he went to Spain with his father, to become a page in the service of the Spanish prince, eventually accompanying him to England in 1555 for Mary Tudor's wedding. Later Martin fought as a soldier of Spain in Germany, France and Algeria, yet was ultimately fated to resist the Spanish Crown, and to die far from anywhere he might call home.
Ten years after Martin's birth, Hernan Cortes had his first legitimate child by his aristocratic Spanish wife, whom he also named Martin Cortes, after his own father - and so a bewildering riddle of identity ensued for future historians. To later Mexicans the story of Martin Cortes was to resonate powerfully as an allegory of archetypal dimensions in their resistance to Spain. Martin Cortes, the first mestizo, became an emblem of their struggle, while Martin Cortes, el legitimo, of pure Spanish blood, symbolised all that they despised in their Iberian overlords.
Like Lanyon's earlier book, this one is an engrossing and evocative story, bringing to life those extraordinary times in the16th century when new worlds opened up between the peoples of Europe and others hardly dreamed of. It is a plangent tale of intrigue and identity, exploring Martin Cortes' relations with his famous father, his half-brother, and his mother's people; between his Spanish and New World loyalties. It is a stimulating reflection on the processes of history and legend, and on the nature of the human spirit caught between conflicting worlds.
Anna Lanyon studied Spanish, Portuguese and History at La Trobe University in Melbourne. She travelled widely before settling with her family on the southern coast of Victoria, near Portland. She teaches and translates Spanish, and is the author of Malinche's Conquest (A+U 2000). She works in Portland for La Trobe University's Centre for the Study of Mothers' and Children's Health, and continues to write whenever she can.
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
General & world history