The Mexican screenwriter and novelist Laura Esquivel (ehs-kee-VEHL), who became widely known for her first published novel, Like Water for Chocolate, was raised in a middle-class family in Mexico City. She received a teaching degree from the Escuela Normal de Maestros and spent eight years teaching before embarking on a career as a writer and director of children’s theater and as a screenwriter. In 1985 she and her husband, the film director, producer, and actor Alfonso Arau, collaborated on a film project, Chido One, for which she wrote the screenplay. For this work Esquivel won a nomination from the Mexican Academy of Motion Pictures for the prestigious Ariel Award.
The novel Like Water for Chocolate was widely read both in Mexico and in the United States. Once again, collaborating with her husband, the author adapted the work for the screen several years later, a venture that was financially and critically successful. In fact, the internationally acclaimed film was one of the highest grossing foreign films in the United States. Among the ten Ariel awards the film received, one was for Esquivel’s screenplay.
Set in Mexico during the first half of the twentieth century, Like Water for Chocolate chronicles the life of the De la Garza family, which is headed by the domineering matriarch Mamá Elena. A cruel family tradition ordains that Tita, the youngest of three daughters, is forced to care for her mother to the end of her days and thus never marry. Relegated to the kitchen, Tita learns the secrets both of food and of love from the devoted family cook, Nacha, in a relationship that evokes the author’s childhood memories of her grandmother’s kitchen. Indeed, as this tale unfolds, the scenery changes from that of northern Mexico to that of San Antonio, which is reminiscent of Esquivel’s own childhood, when she often traveled with her family to visit relatives...
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Laura Alicia Palomares Esquivel (ehs-kee-VEHL) was born in Mexico City on September 30, 1950, to Josephina, a homemaker, and Julio Caesar Esquivel, a telegraph operator diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She was the third of four children, three daughters and one son. Her parents later divorced, and her father’s illness and death in 1999 served as the inspiration for Tan veloz como el deseo (2001; Swift as Desire, 2001), Esquivel’s third novel.
Esquivel grew up in a pleasant neighborhood of Mexico City, near the Escuela Normal de Maestros, the national college for the preparation of teachers. She attended the college and trained as an elementary school teacher. For eight years she taught elementary-age children and then founded a children’s theater workshop, Taller de Teatro y Literatura, with the collaboration of some friends. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Esquivel also produced dramatic pieces for children’s theater and wrote for children’s public television.
She met and married the actor Alfonso Arau, and their daughter Sandra was born in 1976. Arau later became a director and producer. In 1985, Esquivel and Arau collaborated on the film production of her screenplay for children, Chido One, also known as Tacos de oro (gold tacos). The Mexican Academy of Motion Pictures nominated Esquivel’s script for best screenplay. Esquivel also wrote the screenplay for another children’s film, Estrellita marinera (1994; Little...
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Laura Esquivel’s novel Like Water for Chocolate portrays what finally becomes a literally all-consuming love. Pedro and Tita manage to circumvent the conventions and traditions that have bound them. Esquivel skillfully blends elements from fantasy, Magical Realism, cookbooks, and romance novels, seasoned with a dash of the historical novel, to create a compelling story of frustrated and finally consummated love. The immense success of her novel has been credited with contributing to the boom in Spanish-language publishing in the United States for the Latino market. The enduring popularity of both the novel and the film make them common texts for classroom use in Spanish or English. Esquivel’s subsequent work, though equally innovative, has not met with the same success.