JOHN BIERHORST – THE HUNGRY WOMAN – MYTHS AND LEGNDS OF THE
AZTECS – 1984
The stories are interesting but
they are not systematic – I mean revealing a real complex system – and we
cannot even believe they are authentic. Some are nothing but recollected or
remembered historical events and some are real mythological tales. The sources
are on one hand the Spanish testimony collected in the 16th-17th
centuries, particularly by Fray Diego Duran. And on the other hand what living
descendants keep in their folklore or their memory, knowing that most male
Aztecs were purely “genocided” and practically only women survived and they
were forced to integrated the position of sexual mates to the Invading Spanish
soldiers who had killed the male Aztecs. That’s what I call a clear trauma that
can only produce a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
Yet there are a few interesting
elements and the most fascinating one is the role of women.
The creation of that world is at
first seen as the spreading out of the body of a hungry woman which explains both the female nature of the
universe of Mother Nature and the way the universe claims everything and
everyone. It is in the very nature of the universe that life should be
temporary for death and the return to the universe, to the earth is precisely
the end of everything and everyone.
The rivalry between Quetzalcoatl
and Tezcatlipoca, the creator versus the destroyer, the two basic antagonistic
principles, is in a way universal but in this book it is not that clearly and
The coverage of Montezuma is a
rewriting of history after it happened and after Mexico had been destroyed and the
male Indians exterminated and the female Indians taken as war spoil. “Nearly
everyone claims part-Indian descent. . . the original Indian ancestor was in
most cases a woman, taken with the spoils of the Conquest.” (page 12)
This probably explains that. The
survival or recollection of the past legends and the past was only possible
through these women forcibly integrated into the Spanish society and the
That explains how the Hungry
Woman and other Indian women got transmuted into the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe.
This explains how the most recent stories about women being forced to be the
sexual partners of the Spaniards after having had to face the departure of their
men and in the fire of their destruction? The woman left behind when the
Conquistador goes home is given some money as if she were a whore. She kills
her two sons or when she assumes the identity of Malintzin, she kills her son
like some Medea. And in the end she kills hersealf out of guilt – maybe – or
out of the simple fact she is alone.
It is like the reinvention of the
myth of Medea, a very similar story from another culture. Is that myth
It is this rewriting of stories
the genocidal and female filter through which they are collected or received
that explains why they sound more folkloric than authentic. In other words this
is only a first step in recapturing th real past.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU