Like Water for Chocolate

by Laura Esquivel

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What caused Nacha's death in Like Water for Chocolate?

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Tita grows up in the kitchen with her nanny (Nacha), where her recipes take on a life of their own and mirror her emotions regarding her forbidden love of Pedro. Unfortunately for the star-crossed lovers, Tita's mother has condemned her to live a single life and to take care of her until the end of her days. These conditions are cruel to the enamored young woman, and her sorrows begin to multiply. Tita is overcome by such strong emotions that (the author would have us believe) they cause an alchemic reaction in her cooking, which those around her find impossible to ignore.

Nacha was the Indian cook of the family who reared Tita and served as her advisor throughout her life—even in spirit, after her death, according to this story. Nacha dies after tasting the bitter tears that Tita has cried into the icing of her sister's wedding cake. Her sorrow was provoked by Mama Elena, who has arranged for Tita's sister to marry Pedro—determined keep her youngest daughter single and compliant. Pedro agrees to the arrangement in order to remain close to Tita. The effect of Tita's tears in the cake provoke an intense reaction among the guests, who become ill and nauseous. Sadly, Nacha dies from this concoction, which captured the essence of Tita's "intense" sadness at this turn of events.

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Your question made me smile because the answer is more symbolic than realistic, isn't it?  Nacha dies after sampling the icing on the wedding cake containing Tita's tears.

Nacha's story is a sad one.  She is the De La Garzas' expert cook from India.  She is also a kind of nanny for Tita and loves her like a daughter.  Nacha even shares all of her most precious cooking secrets with Tita.  It is due to this mother/daughter type connection that Nacha dies.  Rosaura is getting married to the man who Mama Elena did not allow Tita to marry.  Oh, Tita cries and cries over this! ... As the cook of the wedding cake, Tita cries her tears all into the icing!  THIS is the icing that Nacha tastes that leads to her death.

In conclusion, the symbolism here is in the icing.  The icing made with Tita's tears symbolizes Tita's hopelessness and sadness in life.  Nacha, who truly loves Tita, can no longer survive when "tasting" this type of sadness; therefore, she dies during "such an intense moment."

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