What are the main themes of the novel The Years with Laura Diaz?

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The Years with Laura Diaz by author Carlos Fuentes focuses on multiple themes, including censorship, art, and identity.

Censorship and Artistry

The story is narrated by Laura's great-grandson, Santiago, a photographer and filmmaker who takes a significant interest in art throughout Mexican history. At the beginning of the story, Santiago views two murals created by his grandmother's friends, both of whom were heavily censored at different points. One mural was ultimately destroyed due to its controversial themes. The story also touches on the era of censorship in the 1950s through an American political exile who becomes Laura's lover. Laura herself finds freedom in artistic expression through photography, demonstrating the duality of the industry's nature. Art can be freeing in its truest form but stifling when it is censored. 


Identity is another major theme presented throughout The Years with Laura Diaz. Laura finds herself in the position of a side character in her own story. It is only when Laura reaches her sixties after losing her lover to the communist witch hunts that she emerges as a major character in her own life. This theme is foreshadowed in an early passage of the story in which Laura's grandmother warns her to take risks to avoid living a life of regret. Laura's grandmother herself once fell in love with a dashing bandit and has always regretted not running away with him. She cautions Laura not to lose herself by being afraid of making mistakes and to take control of her own destiny. Unfortunately for Laura, she does not follow this advice until much later in life.

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