Laura Esquivel

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Laura Esquivel
Laura Esquivel in Sofia in 2011
Laura Esquivel in Sofia in 2011
Born (1950-09-30) 30 September 1950 (age 72)
Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City, Mexico
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter
GenreMagical realism, science fiction

Laura Beatriz Esquivel Valdés (born September 30, 1950)[1] is a Mexican novelist, screenwriter and politician, serving in the LXIII Legislature of the Mexican Congress in the Chamber of Deputies for the Morena Party from 2015 to 2018.[1] Her first novel Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) became a bestseller in Mexico and the United States, and was later developed into an award-winning film.

Literary career[edit]

In her novel Like Water for Chocolate released in 1989, Esquivel uses magical realism to combine the ordinary and the supernatural, with narrative devices similar to those used by Cuban author Alejo Carpentier as "el real maravilloso" and by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez and Chilean author Isabel Allende. Como agua para chocolate is set during the Mexican Revolution of the early twentieth Century and features the importance of the kitchen and food in the life of its female protagonist, Tita. The novel is structured as a year of monthly issues of an old-style women's magazine containing recipes, home remedies, and love stories, and each chapter ("January," "February," "March," etc.) opens with the redaction of a traditional Mexican recipe followed by instructions for preparation. Each recipe recalls to the narrator a significant event in the protagonist's life.[2]

Esquivel has stated that she believes that the kitchen is the most important part of the house and characterizes it as a source of knowledge and understanding that brings pleasure.[3] The title Como agua para chocolate is a phrase used in Mexico to refer to someone whose emotions are about to "boil," because water for chocolate must be just at the boil when the chocolate is added and beaten.[4] The idea for the novel came to Esquivel "while she was cooking the recipes of her mother and grandmother."[3] Reportedly, "Esquivel used an episode from her own family to write her book. She had a great-aunt named Tita who was forbidden to wed and spent her life caring for her mother. Soon after her mother died, so did Tita."[3]

According to Esquivel critic Elizabeth M. Willingham, despite the fact that the novel was poorly received critically in Mexico, Como agua para chocolate "created a single-author economic boom, unprecedented in Mexican literature or film of any period by any author" and "went into second and third printings in the first year of its release and reached the second place in sales in 1989" and "became Mexico’s 'bestseller' in 1990".[5] The novel has been translated into more than 20 languages."[6]

Like Water for Chocolate was developed into a film which premiered in 1992, concurrently with the book's English translation by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen. In the United States, Like Water for Chocolate became one of the largest grossing foreign films ever released. The film "dominated" Mexico's film awards and received ten Arieles and, according to Susan Karlin in Variety (1993), the fine-tuned final version of the film garnered "'nearly two dozen' international awards".[7]

Esquivel's second novel, La ley del amor (Grijalbo 1995 Mexico), translated as The Law of Love (trans. Margaret Sayers Peden, Crown–Random, 1996), is described by literary critic Lydia H. Rodríguez as a "narrative [that] deconstructs the present to create a twenty-third century where remarkable invention and familiar elements populate a gymnastically-paced text" whose "conflicts . . . set the Law of Love (as a cosmic philosophy) in motion" [8] Literary critic Elizabeth Coonrod Martínez cautions, "Although Esquivel merges science fiction trappings with a love story in the novel, . . . [the author] attempts a blueprint for a harmonious future that remains beyond the experience of present societies, a future anchored by a central philosophy that individual wholeness can be achieved only by participation in and on behalf of the community" [9]

Esquivel's non-fiction compilation Between Two Fires (NY: Crown, 2000) featured essays on life, love, and food.

Esquivel's third novel, Tan veloz como el deseo (Barcelona: Plaza y Janés, 2001), translated into English as Swift as Desire (Trans. Stephen A. Lytle. NY: Crown-Random, 2001), is set in Mexico City the apartment of Lluvia, a middle-aged divorcée caring for her debilitated father, Júbilo, a former telegraph operator born with a gift for understanding what people want to say rather than what they actually say. For the first time in this novel, according to critic Willingham, "Esquivel asks the reader to consider Mexico’s historical dialogue and [its] enduring truths" in a contemporary setting in which the characters seek a meaningful and lasting reconciliation that rises above historical errors and misunderstandings.[10]

Esquivel's fourth novel Malinche: novela (NY: Atria, 2006), translated as Malinche: A Novel (Trans. Ernesto Mestre-Reed. NY: Atria, 2006), adopts "Malinalli" as the name of the title character, also known as "Doña Marina," whose pejorative title "La Malinche" means "the woman of Malinche," the Aztecs' (Nahuatl) name for Spaniard Hernán Cortés[11] According to critic Ryan Long, Esquivel's naming of her title character and her novel "reflects upon the diverse and unpredictable revisions that [Malinalli/La Malinche's] mythical identity has undergone continuously since the period of the Conquest. . . . seek[ing] a middle ground between Malinalli’s autonomy and Malinche’s predetermination"[12] The novel's book jacket features an Aztec-style codex designed and executed by Jordi Castells) printed on its interior surface that is meant to represent Malinalli's diary.

Esquivel's most recent novels are A Lupita le gusta planchar (2014 SUMA, Madrid) and El diario de Tita (May 2016 Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, Barcelona). The former has been translated into English as Pierced by the Sun (Trans. Jordi Castells. Amazon Crossing, Seattle 2016).

Personal life[edit]

Laura Beatriz Esquivel Veracruz was born the third of four children to Julio César Esquivel, a telegraph operator, and Josefa Valdés, a homemaker. Her father's death in 1999 was the inspiration for Tan veloz como el deseo. Trained as a teacher, Esquivel founded a children's theater workshop and wrote and produced dramas for children. She first married actor, producer, and director Alfonso Arau, with whom she collaborated on several films. Esquivel and her present husband make their home in Mexico City.[13]

In March 2009 Laura Esquivel ran as preliminary candidate of the Local Council in District XXVII of Mexico City for the PRD. Her candidacy was supported by the current Izquierda Unida, which combined various PRD groups. In 2012, she was elected Federal Representative (in Spanish: diputada federal) for the Morena Party. She has also served as head of the Mexico City Cultural Committee and member of the Science & Technology and Environmental Committees for the Morena Party.



  1. ^ a b "SIL :: Sistema de Información Legislativa-PopUp Legislador". Retrieved 2022-02-16.
  2. ^ Elizabeth M. Willingham. "Introduction." Laura Esquivel’s Mexican Fictions. Sussex Academic P, 2010. 13–14.
  3. ^ a b c Cooking up passion the woman behind Like Water For Chocolate views the kitchen as the center of seduction for her stirring tale of love on the sly. Candice Russell. Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL). Features Arts & Leisure, Pg. 1D. April 25, 1993.
  4. ^ Willingham. 2010. "Glossary." "chocolate," "como agua para chocolate." 226–227.
  5. ^ Willingham. "Introduction: Early Critical Reception."'2010. 5–8.
  6. ^ Kitchen is home's heart for 'Chocolate' author Esquivel. Deirdre Donahue. USA Today Life; Pg. 8D. November 18, 1993.
  7. ^ Willingham. Introduction. 2010. 1-2 n. 4. Karlin, Susan. “Sweet Shortcut for Hot ‘Chocolate.’” Variety 352.3 (August 30, 1993): 1, 34.
  8. ^ Rodríguez. "Laura Esquivel's Quantum Leap in The Law of Love." Ed. Willingham. 153–162.
  9. ^ Coonrod Martínez. "Cultural Identity and the Cosmos: Laura Esquivel’s Predictions for a New Millennium in The Law of Love. 136–152.
  10. ^ Willingham. "The Two Mexicos of Swift as Desire. Ed. Willingham 2010. 163–172.
  11. ^ Jeanne Gillespie. "Malinche: Fleshing out the Foundational Fictions of the Conquest of Mexico." Ed. Willingham. 2010. 173–196.
  12. ^ Long."Esquivel's Malinalli: Refusing the Last Word on La Malinche." Ed Willingham. 2010. 197–207.
  13. ^ Ledford-Miller, Linda."A Biography of Laura Esquivel." Ed. Willingham. 2010. 1–3.

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