Laura Esquivel Essay - Critical Essays


The hybrid form of the novel Like Water for Chocolate, mixing the history of the Mexican Revolution, relations between the United States and Mexico, and the Magical Realism of the almost incantatory, and certainly passionate, recipes of the heroine, Tita de la Garza, resulted in a novel of enduring popularity that continues to be taught in high school and college literature classes in Spanish or in translation.

Esquivel considered her second novel, The Law of Love, the first multimedia novel. The setting is simultaneously the sixteenth century Mexico of Hernán Cortés’s conquest of the Aztecs and the twenty-third century future in the same location. The media include color comic book panels that illustrate the text and a compact disc of musical recordings with instructions for listening to them at specific points in the narrative. The protagonist is an astroanalyst, Azucena Martínez, in the future Mexico City, looking for her soul mate, Rodrigo Sánchez. In ancient Aztec times, Rodrigo killed an innocent child and now must pay penance for his crime through several centuries. Azucena has no such karmic debts. Her love saves Rodrigo and restores the karmic balance of the universe. The novel combines romance with Mexican and Mesoamerican culture and science fiction, more magic than Magical Realism. Though the story and structure are highly imaginative, the complicated plot may try the reader’s patience and credulity.

Esquivel’s third novel, Swift as Desire, takes a magical approach to the telegraph. The protagonist, who is of Mayan Indian heritage, has an uncanny ability to understand other people’s unexpressed feelings. As he lies dying, he is unable to speak, so his daughter uses a telegraph and Morse code to communicate with her father. The novel is both a testament to Esquivel’s father and a panegyric to a technology that was as revolutionary in its day as the Internet was in the late twentieth century.

The novel Malinche was produced at the suggestion of Santillana, a Mexican publishing company. Malinche, alsoo known as Malintzin or Doña Marina, was Aztec booty given as a gift to Hernán Cortés to be his slave. She served as his interpreter for his dealings with the Aztecs, and thus was an indispensable component of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Malinche is considered the mother of the Mexican race because of the son she produced as a result of her liaison with Cortés, but she is also considered a traitor to the nation’s indigenous people because of her liaison with the enemy and her assistance in the domination of native tribes. Few facts are known about Malinche’s life, and Esquivel spent two years researching the historical context of her title character’s life.

Like Water for Chocolate

First published: Como agua para chocolate, 1989 (English translation, 1992)

Type of work: Novel

Enslaved to a family tradition that prevents the youngest daughter from marrying while her mother lives, a young woman expresses her love through the language of food.

Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies, as its full title suggests, is a hybrid work, combining the elements of a historical novel set during the turbulent times of the Mexican Revolution, the mystical and healing art of food that Esquivel learned in her grandmother’s kitchen, and a highly romantic love story. The story unfolds through the twelve divisions of the novel, one chapter for each month of the year, beginning with January and ending with December, with one recipe per chapter, each recipe in some way relevant to the events that will occur in that chapter. After the list of...

(The entire section is 1546 words.)