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Como agua para

In some Latinchocolate
countries, such as Mexico,
hot chocolate is made not
with milk, but with water
instead. Water is boiled and
chunks of milk chocolate are
dropped in to melt. The
saying "like water for
chocolate," alludes to this
fact and also to the common
use of the expression as a
metaphor for describing a
state of passion or sexual
arousal. In some parts of
Latin America, the saying is
also equivalent to being
'boiling mad' in anger.
Mexican screenwriter Laura Esquivel's
first novel, Like Water For Chocolate,
met with unusual success when it was
published in 1989. The enthusiasm
about the book led to a Spanish-
language movie of the same title, which
also was immensely popular. Upon
translation from Spanish into English in
1992, the novel incited similar
excitement, becoming a best-seller;
subsequently, the English-subtitled film
became one of the most popular
foreign-language films in American film
history. In addition to this popular
success, Like Water For Chocolate
received critical acclaim, as it emerged
during the early 1990s, when new ideas
about multiculturalism in literature
brought attention to the work of
previously ignored minority women
Esquivel on Cooking &
I grew up in a modern home, but my
grandmother lived across the street in
an old house that was built when
churches were illegal in Mexico. She
had a chapel in the home, right
between the kitchen and the dining
room. The smell of nuts and chilies and
garlic got all mixed up with the smells
from the chapel, my grandmothers
carnations, the liniments and healing
Magical Realism
Like Water For Chocolate belongs to the
genre of magical realism. This literary
style, first developed by the Cuban
writer Alejo Carpentier in his 1949
essay "Lo maravilloso real," generally
describes novels by Latin American
writers (though it is increasingly applied
to writers of any background) that are
infused with distinct fantastic, mythical,
and epic themes. Magical realism is
often explained as a unique product of
the Latin American condition,
particularly its history of European
colonialism, which resulted in a delicate
relationship between the contradictory
yet co-existing forces of indigenous
religion and myth and the powerful
Catholic Church.
Elements of Magical
A chiefly literary style or genre originating in Latin
America that combines fantastic or dreamlike
elements with realism

A narrative technique that blurs the distinction

fantasy and reality. It is characterized by an equal
acceptance of the ordinary and the extraordinary.
realism fuses lyrical and, at times, fantastic writing
with an examination of the character of human
existence and an implicit criticism of society, "My most
particularly the elite important
problem was
In magical realism we find the transformation of destroying
the lines of
the common and the everyday into the awesome
demarcation that
and the unreal. It is predominantly an art of separates what
surprises. Time is fluid and the unreal happens as seems real from
part of reality. what seems
- Gabriel Garcia
Magical Realism often involves: time shifts, fairy
Magical Realism at Work
Tita was literally washed into this world
on a
great tide of tears that spilled over the
edge of the
table and flooded across the kitchen floor.
That afternoon, when the uproar had
subsided and the water had been dried up
by the sun, Nacha swept up the residue
the tears had left on the red stone floor.
There was enough salt to fill a ten-pound
sack (6).

Here Esquivel has combines the reality of

than simply state that Mama childbirth
Elena will be cruel to Tita, Esquivel crafts
with Elena
an aesthetic image that aligns the fantasy of acrid
with the a baby bornand
smell intotaste
the world
on a flood of tears. Like an onion,
onions. While Mama Elena in her treatment of Tita could easily be multiple
compared to the step-mother layers of meaningthe
in Cinderella, areauthor
has here. Titas
used magical realism to showpremature birth (due
the cruelness in a to a sensitivity
unique way. We toalso
see here that Nacha is left foreshadows
to clean upthethepain
willasendure in take
she will life.
The Setting
The characters in Like Water for
Chocolate are set against the
backdrop of the most important
modernizing force in Mexican
history, the Mexican Revolution of
1910-17. During this time,
peasants and natives banded
together under the leadership of
figures such as Pancho Villa and
Emiliano Zapata to reject the old
order's dictatorship, revive
democracy, and claim Mexico for
the everyday man and woman.
Esquivel uses the revolution to
explore themes of masculinity and
gender identity, and examine how
individuals appropriate for
themselves the revolution's goal of
Style & Structure
In a style that is epic in scope yet
intensely personal in focus, Laura
Esquivel's Like Water For Chocolate
tells the story of Tita De La Garza,
the youngest daughter in a family
living in Mexico at the turn of the
twentieth century. Through twelve
chapters, each marked as a
"monthly installment" and thus
labeled with the months of the year,
we learn of Tita's struggle to pursue
true love and claim her
independence. Each installment
features a recipe to begin each
chapter. The structure of Like Water
For Chocolate is wholly dependent
on these recipes, as the main
episodes of each chapter generally
involve the preparation or
consumption of the dishes that
Why Recipes?
The recipes provide a common thread that
Esquivel weaves through the novel, elegantly
uniting disparate ages, people, and generations
in a coherent and intimately related whole. This
approach is explained at the close of the book
when Esperanza finds her aunts cookbook in
the ruins of the De La Garza ranch. As she
recreates the recipes in her home, she passes
down the family stories to her own daughter.
This child becomes the novels narrator as she
incorporates her great-aunts recipes, remedies,
and experiences into the story. She justifies her
unique narrative by stating that Tita, will go on
living as long as there is someone who cooks
her recipes. The recipes and their
preparation, as well as the
home remedies and their
application, are an intrinsic
part of the story. There is
therefore an intrinsic symbiotic
relationship between the novel
and its model in the reading
experience. Each is feeding on
the other.
A Womans Place
Traditionally, a Latin womans place was in
the home, especially in the patriarchal
society of the early 20th century. Women
were expected to serve their fathers and
brothers until they were married, after
which time they would serve their
husbands and sons

Women often turned to the domestic arts

for creative outlets, along with storytelling,
gossip, and advice. Through these outlets,
they created a feminine culture within the
social prison of married life. Maria Elena de
Valdes notes that little has changed for the
Mexican woman: She must be strong and
far more clever than the men who
supposedly protect her. She must be pious,
observing all the religious requirements of
a virtuous daughter, wife, and mother. She
must exercise great care to keep her
sentimental relations as private as
possible, and, most important of all, she
must be in control of life in her house,
Literary Heritage
The novels structure is based on genre of
womens fiction published in monthly installments
in calendars for young ladies. These calendars
often included recipes, dressmaking patterns,
home remedies, moral exhortations, and
calendars of church observances

Like Water for Chocolate also draws inspiration

from the genre of installment novels which gained
in popularity in the latter half of the 19th century.
These elaborate love stories, written by and
aimed at women, featured episodic plots, overt
sentimentality, and centered around the

Behind these ostensibly simplistic, episodic plots

there was an infrahistory of life as it was lived
with all the multiple restrictions for women of this
social class. The Heroines were survivors that led
full lives despite marriage. They transcended
conditions of existence and expressed themselves
through love and creativity
Duty and Responsibility: The first chapter begins the novels exploration of
the theme of duty, responsibility, and tradition as it presents Titas main conflict.
Family tradition requires that she reject Pedros marriage proposal so she can
stay at home and take care of her widowed mother for the rest of her life. If she
turns her back on this tradition, she will not fulfill what society considers her
responsibility to her mother. Rosaura decides that she also will enforce this
tradition for her daughter Esperanza and so prevent her from marrying Alex
Brown. Tita recognizes, however, that the tradition is unfair; if she cannot marry
and have children, who will support her in her age? She tells Rosaura that she
will go against tradition as long as she has to, as long as this cursed tradition
doesnt take me into account.

Obedience: In order to fulfill her responsibilities toward her mother, Tita must
obey her -a difficult task, given Mama Elenas authoritative nature. Mama Elena
makes harsh demands on Tita throughout her life and expects her to obey
without question. Tita has never had the proper deference towards her mother,
Mama Elena feels, and so she is particularly harsh on her youngest daughter.
Tita must take full responsibility for the meals on the ranch, which leaves Tita
little time for anything else. Titas struggle to determine what is the proper
degree of obedience due to her mother is a major conflict in the novel.
Cruelty and Violence: Mama Elena often resorts to cruelty and violence as she
forces Tita to obey her. Many of the responsibilities she imposes on Tita,
especially those relating to Pedro and Rosauras wedding, are blatant acts of
cruelty, given Titas pain over losing Pedro. Mama Elena meets Titas slightest
protest with angry tirades and beatings. This everyday cruelty does not seem so
unusual, however, in a land where a widow must protect herself and her family
from bandits and revolutionaries.

Victim and Victimization: When Mama Elena coerces Tita into obeying her
cruel dictates, she victimizes her. Tita becomes a victim of Mama Elenas
obsessive need for power and control. Mama Elena confines Tita to the kitchen,
where her life consists of providing for the needs of others. She rejects Titas
individuality and tries to force her to suppress her sense of selfhood. Titas
growth as an individual depends on her ability to free herself from the role of

Gender Roles: The novel closely relates Titas victimization to the issue of sex.
When Titas mother confines her to the kitchen, she relegates her to a limited
domestic sphere. There Titas role becomes a traditionally female one -that of
selfless nurturer, placing the needs of others before her own. In this limited role,
Tita struggles to find a sense of identity. When Tita is taken to Dr. Browns house,
she marvels at her hands, for she discovers she could move them however she
pleased. At the ranch, what she had to do with her hands was strictly
Love and Passion: The forces of love and passion conflict with Titas desire to
fulfill her responsibilities toward her mother. In obeying her mother, Tita must
suppress her feelings for Pedro. Her sister Gertrudis, on the other hand, allows
herself to freely express her passion when she runs off with Juan and soon begins
work at a brothel. Titas and Gertrudiss passionate natures also emerge through
their enjoyment of food. Both relish good meals, although Tita is the only one
who knows how to prepare one. At one point, Gertrudis brings the revolutionary
army to the De la Garza ranch so she can sample her sisters hot chocolate,
cream fritters, and other recipes. This parallel can be carried over to the love of
John Brown for Tita. Although he is captivated by her beauty, he feels no
passionate jealousy over her relationship with Pedro. He comes from a North
American family where the food, as Tita finds, is bland and didnt appeal.

Creativity and Imagination: Through Titas creativity in the kitchen, she finds
an outlet for her suppressed emotions. Thus, ironically, while Mama Elena tries
to control Tita by confining her to the kitchen and forcing her to prepare all of the
familys meals, Tita is also able to strengthen her relationship with others and to
gain a clearer sense of herself. She pours all of her passion for Pedro into her
meals, which helps to further bond the two. Her cooking also creates a bond with
Pedros two children, easing the pain over not being able to have children of her
own with him. Titas imaginative cooking is also a way for her to rebel against
her mother; she recalls that whenever she failed to follow a recipe exactly, she
was always sure that Mama Elena would find out and, instead of
congratulating her on her creativity, give her a terrible tongue-lashing for
disobeying the rules.
Supernatural: The final important element of the novel is Esquivels use of the
supernatural. Titas magical dishes, which produce waves of longing and
uncontrollable desire, become a metaphor for creativity and self-expression. Like
an artist, Tita pours herself into her cooking and produces works of art that
evoke strong emotions in others. Her careful preparation of her familys food also
reveals her loving nature. Another supernatural aspect, the spirits of the dead
that appear to Tita throughout the novel, suggest that ones influence does not
disappear after death. Nachas spirit helps give Tita confidence when she needs
it, much like Nacha had done while she was alive. Mama Elenas spirit tries to
control Tita from the grave, making her feel guilty about her passion for Pedro.

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