Before my mother died, she showed me her genealogical chart. It showed a rich history of ancestry on her mother’s side.
It was a history full of conquistadors and native Indian origin, leading all the way back to the Aztec emperors. We are related to Doña Isabel Moctezuma and Don Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca. My mother had been astounded by this lineage, just as I was.
As I think back to that day with my mother and l looking at my ancestry, I couldn’t help but think about the clash of cultures and the tears that must have been cried.
I think of my great grandmother Isabel, 17 generations before me, and the emotional and mental anguish she must have experienced having to depend on Hernán Cortés, the conquistador who murdered her father and people. Cortés took Isabel, after she was widowed, to his palace and impregnated her. She was just 17 years old. Their relationship, as one could imagine, was miserable and he married her off to Pedro Gallego De Andrade. The tears she must have shed and the anguish over her situation must have been great. Isabel was married 4 times by the time she bore a child that she rejected, Doña Leonor Cortés Moctezuma.
Leonor was raised by another person in the house of Juan Gutiérrez de Altamirano with Cortés insuring her a life of comfort, acknowledging her as his daughter.
I think of Leonor and the anguish she must have felt at being rejected by her Aztec mother and raised by the very people who destroyed her mother’s family. I think back to my own childhood, and the shadows I felt looming in the background of an unspoken anguish and sorrow carried on from one generation to the other.
Today, I can accept both conqueror and conquered, understanding that both were about survival and respecting both heritages.