(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The Legend of La Llorona, part of Anaya’s shift in the 1980’s away from longer narrative to more restricted genres such as poetry, drama, children’s stories, and short fiction, appropriates the story of one of Mexico’s most reviled historic figures. In a slender narrative (barely seventy pages), Anaya examines the pre-Colombian culture at the very moment that marked its eventual extinction: the invasion by European conquistadores, from their arrival in 1519 to their entrance in November, 1521, into Tenochtitlán. In focusing on Malinche, the beautiful Aztec woman whose felicity with languages enabled her to serve as interpreter for the Spaniards, Anaya investigates thorny issues of assimilation and cooperation, specifically the massive influence of a brutalizing Anglo culture that simply dismissed an empire that had existed in Central America long before the conquistadores “discovered” it.

In Anaya’s retelling, however, Malinche is no caricature villain. She is more than her culture’s Eve-figure, deserving of the nearly five hundred years of contempt that she has received at the hands of both historians and folklorists who see in her cooperation with the marauding Cortés the unforgivable act of cultural betrayal. Rather Malinche is in part a victim of oppressive Aztec social customs: Despite her beauty and her intelligence, she is sold in the slave trade after the birth of a brother, who enjoys family favor only by virtue of his...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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