With power comes the responsibility to utilize it. Traditionally, one usually hears only half of the story. Hern?n Cort?s for example was the leading man towards conquering Mexico, yet the underlying truth was that without Malintzin he would not have been successful. Moreover, women had the power to spread religion as they were agents of morality. And although slaves seemed powerless, they still found ways to have the upper hand on their masters and mistresses. We rarely hear about these displays of power because they werent public displays and were concealed.
In the year 1519, Hern?n Cort?s, a Spanish conquistador, set his way to conquer Mexico for Spain. On his expedition he met a former Aztec, Malintzin, also known as La Malinche. She was sold into slavery. She played a key role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, she acted as an interpreter, advisor, and intermediary. The Tlaxcalans allowed Cort?s and his men to settle in territory that belonged to Cholulans.
Unknowingly, Cort?s and his men agreed but it was with Malintzins knowledge and her spy networks that Cort?s and his soldiers were warned about the Cholulans planned assault. Through Malintzins spy networks Cort?s and his soldiers reversed the assault and it backfired on the Cholulans. As a result, the Tlaxcalans allied with Cort?s and his men because of their success in defeating the Cholulans. During this conquest, the idigenous held the power.
Another example of power was women as agents of morality, meaning women would spread certain religious beliefs and try to convert their families and neighbors. Women utilized their new role to become agents of morality and formed majorities of the membership of every church at every point in time (Johnson, pg. 108). Since women were in charge of domestic duties and teaching their children morals and appropriate behavior it was easy for them to influence and convert their children. Additionally, church records and patterns of family visits to church suggest that hundreds of conversions culminated when husbands prayed with their wives (Johnson, pg. 108). Finneys practice of having women and men pray together was considered dangerous since it implied new kinds of equality between the sexes. Nonetheless, religion was strong in America because it was necessary, and it was necessary because it cleansed their souls and sins and those who were religious felt liberated.
Most importantly, the power slaves possessed was not what one would typically assume as a form of resistance. Slave women would resist by purposely getting sick to get at least a week off to recover. In Out of the House of Bondage, the author describes how slaves would also resist through self harm and tells the story of how one slave managed to avoid work for two weeks because of a little sore on her finger (Glymph, pg. 68). Being a slave was a year round job and without a doubt slaves would take every opportunity they could to get some days off and have some time to themselves. In addition to getting sick or injured, they would also get pregnant and after giving birth, they would take their time to regain their strength and health in order to properly work in the plantation household. Unexpectedly, slaves would also spread gossip and rumors they would overhear from their masters and mistresses. They communicated with other slaves and eventually the word would get around to other slave owners and the gossip may have even been about them. Because of the intricate way the rumors traveled it was difficult for slave owners to trace the origin. This allowed slaves to be free of consequences when these rumors spread.
Power is defined as the ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. The indigenous people were the ones who truly held the power rather than conquistadors. Women influenced religious beliefs among their families, neighbors, and communities. Slaves resisted slavery in unique ways that one would not generally come to mind. Ultimately, the way the idigenous, women, and slaves utilized their power resulted in beneficial outcomes. Consequently, the outcomes of these events overpowered the people who actually possessed the power to influence them.