Esquivel, Laura: Like Water for Chocolate
(researched by Heather Johnson)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Published by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing. Group Inc. 1540 Broadway, New Tork, New York 10036 Original Price: $19.95
First copyrighted by Laura Esquivel in 1989 with original Spanish Text Como Agau Para Chocolate. English translation copyright c.1992 (October)New York
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First Edition in cloth. It did not start in paperback until February of 1994.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
260 leaves, 20cm x 29.5 cm first and last of book: turquoise cloth paper, blank i. (unnumbered) half title ii. (unnumbered) Translated by/Carol Christensen/and/Thomas Christensen/(anchor symbol)/ ANCHOR BOOKS/ DOUBLEDAY/New York London Toronto Sydney Auckland iii. (unnumbered) title page iv. (unnumbered) bibliographical information v. (unnumbered) half title vi. (unnumbered) blank 1. To the table or to bed/You must come when you are bid. 2. blank 3-256 Text (34 lines per page - except for first and last pages of chapter) 247. About the Author 248-250 Blank Between each chapter there is a text-less page with a decorative lavender-colored design. The back of this page is always blank. The following page lists the Chapter number, the correlating month, and the recipe for the month. The back of that page has the ingredients for the respective recipe. Thus, there are four text-free pages between every chapter.
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
no
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are twelve chapters, each introduced by a recipe and a decorative page. These lavender pages, however, are not credited to any illustrator. The cover art on the first edition dust jacket was drawn by Cathleen Toelke in 1991 and designed by Julie Dequet.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Excellent condition. The text appears to be a Times New Roman font. It is fairly large, maybe 12-13 pt. type. It is easy to read and clear.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper is in excellent condition. It is a cream-white color and is thinner than construction paper but thicker than notebook or printer paper.
11 Description of binding(s)
Bound in cloth. The cloth is a burnt-umber/burnt-sienna color (according to Crayola). There is copper-colored gilt lettering on the spine reading "LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE / LAURA ESQUIVEL" and the ensigna and lettering of Doubleday (the publisher).
Pages are attached with glue substance.
12 Transcription of title page
LIKE/WATER/FOR/CHOCOLATE/ A Novel in Monthly Installments/ with Recipes, Romances/ and Home Remedies/ (small decorative square)/ LAURA ESQUIVEL
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
unknown.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
The December 1993 edition of Like Water for Chocolate, published by Doubleday, is a hardback copy of the book with the same format as the first edition except for a new color of dust jacket. The cover art was the same, only it was surrounded by lavender in this edition rather than teal.
Another run of books was distributed in London in 1993, also by Doubleday, but under a new title, "Like Water for Hot Chocolate."
Source: Worldcat.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Very little information on this topic was available.
However, the Los Angeles Times did state in an article in July of 1994 that the publishers printed the first edition the first time with 11,500 copies. By 1994 they had returned to the presses 6 times to make reprints of the first edition.
A search on Bibliofind located a 31st printing of the first edition. Whether there are more than 31 is unknown.
Sources: Bibliofind, Los Angeles Times
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Anchor Books, 1994, 1995 (trade paperback) Curley Large Print, 1993 Black Swan, 1993 (London) Turtleback (by Demco Media), 1995
Sources: worldcat, barnes&noble.com
6 Last date in print?
Like Water for Chocolate is still in print as of 1999.
Source: Books in Print, 1996-97, Bowker.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to Publishers Weekly in May, 1993, nine thousand copies of the Spanish text and almost nineteen times that many English versions had been sold.
According to The Nation, in June of 1993, 202,000 copies of the book had been sold.
According to the Hartford Courant (March, 1994), Like Water for Chocolate sold 675,000 copies in 1993.
According to Publishers Weekly of August, 1994, the novel had sold close to 850,000 copies. At that time, Anchor Books trade paperback had already sent its first edition out with a 775,000 first printing and had been back to press three times, making 975,000 in print.
According to Bowker's Annual, by 1995, 1,111,248 trade paperbacks (Anchor) of this novel had been sold.
Sources: Bowker's Annual, The Hartford Courant, Publisher's Weekly (1993, 1994), and The Nation
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
According to The Hartford Courant, 675,000 copies were sold in 1993.
According to a Washington Post article in May of 1994, Like Water for Chocolate had sold over a million copies of the first edition since it appeared.
Sources: The Hartford Courant, The Washington Post
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Apparently this book was not widely advertised. However, at the time of this novel's premier in the United States, a full-length motion picture of the novel was a blockbuster in theaters. See "Other Promotion" for more information about this movie, which seemed to have dramatic effects on the sales of this book.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
1994 winner of Abby Award. In May of 1993, Like Water for Chocolate had been on the Publisher's Weekly's bestseller list for a few weeks, but the movie version had already grossed over $4.5 million, making it the most profitable Latin American film to date. In October of 1994, Publisher's Weekly stated that the simultaneous release of this award-winning movie brought in publicity for the book that money couldn't buy. In June of 1994, New Yorker even claimed that the reason that Like Water for Chocolate stayed as long as it did on Bestseller lists was because of the accompanying movie.
A poster/advertisement for the movie version can be seen at: http://www.amazon.com/covers/6/30/315/330/6303153305.l.gif
The movie version of this book, directed by Esquivel's husband, Alfonso Arau, won ten Ariel Awards of the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences as well as a number of prizes in the Chicago, Tokyo and Toronto Film Festivals.
Sources: Publisher's Weekly, May 1993 & October 1994, The Nation, 1993, New Yorker, June 1994.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Full Length Motion Picture: 1992, US, Directed by Alfonso Arau, distributed by Miramax Films. Stars Mario Lenonardi, Regina Torne, Mario Ivan Martinez and Lumi Cavazos.
Audio Cassette: 1994, Laura Esquivel and Yareli Arizmendi.
Electronic Book: by Random House. (no date given)
sources: Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
The Following translations have been done of Like Water for Chocolate:
Chinese: Ch'iao k'o li ching jen. 1993. Chinese: Nung ch'ing chu ku li. huang kuan ch'u pan she. 1994. (ch'u pan edition)
Dutch: Rode rozen en tortillas. M. Muntinga. Amsterdam, 1996.
German: Schaumand wie heise Shokolade. Insel. 1992 (1 aufl. edition).
Hebrew: Kemo mayim le-shokoladah. Or'am. Tel Aviv, 1994. Italian: Dolce come il cioccolato. Garzanti. 1996.
Japanese: Akai bava sosu no densetsu. Sekai Bunkasha. 1993
Persian: Misl-i ab baray-i shukalat. Intisharat-i Rawshangar an va Mutali'at-i Lanan
Polish: Przepiorkiw Platkach rozy. Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. 1993. Portuguese: Como agau para chocolate. Martins Fontes. Sau Paulo, 1993. Portuguese: Como agua para chocolate. Edicoes A.S.A. 1993. Portuguese: Como agau para chocolate. Ed. Record. 1995.
Russian: Shokolad na krutom kipiatke. Novosti. Moskva, 1993.
Serbo-Croatian: Kao voda za cokoladu. Algoritam. Zagreb, 1995.
This lists twelve translations of the book, all found on Worldcat. A thirteenth translation was from Spanish to English in 1991 by Thomas and Carol Christensen. However, according to Marie-Arana Ward of the Washington Post, there are at least 24 translati
ons of this book.
Sources: Worldcat, The Washington Post, May 8, 1994.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Laura Esquivel was born in Mexico in 1950. The third of four children, she was raised in a small suburb outside of Mexico City. Her family life as a child is reflected in her works. Her mother, Josephina Esquivel
, stayed at home with young Laura and her siblings while her father, Julio Caesar Esquivel, worked as a telegraph operator. Her grandmother, a very special character in Esquivel's childhood, instructed her in the family culinary, medicinal and religious
arts. Her father shared his creative, story-telling abilities with his daughter. Laura Esquivel seemed to have a natural talent with the make-believe and chose a career in working with children. She attended the Escuela Normal de Maestros, the national
teaching college of Mexico. She spent her early career as a kindergarten teacher and a supervisor of youth theatre groups. She met Alfonso Arau (more popularly known as "El Guapo" from "The Three Amigos") in the late 1970's and later married him. Arau, a
t that time, was an actor of small parts in movies such as "Romancing the Stone" and "The Wild Bunch." She and Arau had her first and only child, Sandra, in 1976. Esquivel claims that her only daughter is her closest friend. Sandra is now studying cinemat
ography. In 1985, Esquivel wrote Chido One (Little Ocean Star), a screenplay for a children's movie. The film was produced and directed by Arau. The film proved a success and they tried again in 1990 with her first novel, Como Agua Para Chocolaté, which
she had written in 1988. The book was an immediate success in Mexico, and thanks to the popularity of the film, soon became a bestseller in the United States as well after translation into English by Carol and Thomas Christensen. Like Water for Chocolat
e (Como Agua para Chocolaté, translated) was a change from her children's theatre genre. She was inspired by the death of her aunt, who lived a life much similar to Tita de la Garza(Like Water's heroine). Her aunt never was satisfied in life, after bein
g required to stay at her home with her mother rather than marry. Esquivel wrote the book about the life of Tita the way she would have liked to have seen her Aunt's life have happened. In 1996 Esquivel wrote her second major novel, Ley del Amor (The La
w of Love), published by crown Publishers and translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. The second novel was accompanied by a CD soundtrack to listen to while reading the book. Though not welcomed with the same reception as her first novel, she has done well
with it. Her first marriage ended in 1993-4. She does not seem bitter about the separation, and in fact credits a great deal of her success to her marriage with Arau. She has a home in New York, where her publishers are, but spends most of her time in Mex
ico City with her second husband, Dr. Javier Valdez. Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, October 27, 1996 The Washington post, May 8, 1994 Contemporary Authors The New York Times, March 31, 1993
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
When Like Water for Chocolate made its debut in America it found three very different, yet very supportive audiences: publishers and their Hispanic readers, moviegoers and chefs. American book critics found
very little merit in the book compared to the popular American writers of the time but were all very impressed by this small book's power to make a change. It seems the book elucidated characteristics popularly attributed to Latin America. Though it exa
ggerated the common myth of the Mexican homeland as "lust-ridden, superstitious and amazingly spicy," Hispanic-American readers fell on this book hungrily (New Yorker 6-94). Suddenly publishers realized that there was an entirely new audience for books no
t yet addressed. Like Water... was #10 on the bestseller list in San Francisco in its Spanish-language edition. Publishers Weekly (1993)made the observation that this was the first time a Spanish-language book had ever been on a best-seller list. A
s Jonathon Wells (leader of Circulo de Lectores in Manhattan pointed out, there was a sudden trend of "big publishers [wanting]to do something to address the huge Spanish market. Like Water for Chocolate gave publishers a kick in the pants" (L. A.
Times 7-94). Indeed, the Spanish market, thus far ignored, was monstrous. A Publisher's Weekly article in October of 1994 stated that Hispanics were growing at "five times the rate of the general populace." At the time when the book was published in the
US, the Hispanic population was rapidly approaching 10% of the US citizenry (PW 10-94). This sudden discovery of readers/buyers sent publishers wild for Spanish edition texts of works that would appeal to Hispanics. The value of the novel (Like Water..
.
)to some critics was not that it was of any extraordinary literary quality, but that it was novel. It did something that a book had not done in a long time. It made a difference.
"It was the first sign? that Spanish-language books could sell. And sell well." - New York Times 3-13-95
Like Water for Chocolate was popular among the non-Hispanic population for another reason, one that does not reflect positively on the novel. Critics have argued that the only reason that the book sold well was because of the success of the accompa
nying movie. The New Yorker, in June of 1994, claimed that the book stayed on the bestseller list as long as it had (57 weeks at that time)"might be explained by the success of the accompanying movie." As the book represented a renaissance in Spanish-lang
uage texts, the film was, "on the larger scope? the return of Mexican cinema" (The Nation 6-14-93). It was followed quickly by a string of Latin-American films. In May, 1994, the movie version of Like Water... became the largest grossing foreign la
nguage film in US History. Ironically enough, movie critics claim that the success of the film is due to the success of the best-selling novel (L. A. Times, 5-12-94). "We had the simultaneous release of an award-winning movie, which brought in publicity that money couldn't buy." - Martha Levin, Publisher of DD Books
The most surprising audience for Like Water... is the culinary world. Esquivel and her first best-selling novel popped up in cookbooks and recipe albums all over the world.
"Blending family recipes with a haunting love story, the best-selling author of Like Water... awakened our hearts - and appetites." - Mark Seal (New Age Journal)
"?the beguiling story of food and love in Mexico?" - Paul Colford (L. A. Times)
Sources: Bearden, Michelle. "Esquivel's Spanish Primer." PW. Oct. 3, 1994. pp40-43.
Colford, Paul. "Publishers Catch on to Spanish-language Titles." L. A. Times, July 8, 1994.
Jaffe, Janice. "Hispanic American Women's Recipes and Laura Esquivel's Como Agua Para Chocolate." Women's Studies, 1993. Vol. 22, pp217-230.
Maryles, Daisy. "Behind the Bestsellers." PW. May 17, 1993. p17.
Perry, Charles. "If You Cook it, They Will Come." L. A. Times. May 12, 1994.
Seal, Mark. "Laura Esquivel's Healing Journey." New Age Journal. June 1, 1994. Vol. 11, No. 3, pp72-76.
Stavans, Ivan, "Tita's Feast." The Nation. June 14, 1993.
Stern, Jane and Michael. "Two For the Road." Gourmet. Feb. 1, 1995. Vol 55, No. 2, pp104 - 109.
"Sublime Alchemy." Australian Gourmet Traveler. Aug. 1, 1993. p20.
Tabor, Mary. "The Media Business; US Publishers Discover spanish as a Second Language." The NewYork Times. March 13, 1995. New Yorker, June 27, 1994. p80.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
When Like Water for Chocolate made its debut in America it found three very different, yet very supportive audiences: publishers and their Hispanic readers, moviegoers and chefs. American book critics found
very little merit in the book compared to the popular American writers of the time but were all very impressed by this small book's power to make a change. It seems the book elucidated characteristics popularly attributed to Latin America. Though it exa
ggerated the common myth of the Mexican homeland as "lust-ridden, superstitious and amazingly spicy," Hispanic-American readers fell on this book hungrily (New Yorker 6-94). Suddenly publishers realized that there was an entirely new audience for books no
t yet addressed. Like Water... was #10 on the bestseller list in San Francisco in its Spanish-language edition. Publishers Weekly (1993)made the observation that this was the first time a Spanish-language book had ever been on a best-seller list. A
s Jonathon Wells (leader of Circulo de Lectores in Manhattan pointed out, there was a sudden trend of "big publishers [wanting]to do something to address the huge Spanish market. Like Water for Chocolate gave publishers a kick in the pants" (L. A.
Times 7-94). Indeed, the Spanish market, thus far ignored, was monstrous. A Publisher's Weekly article in October of 1994 stated that Hispanics were growing at "five times the rate of the general populace." At the time when the book was published in the
US, the Hispanic population was rapidly approaching 10% of the US citizenry (PW 10-94). This sudden discovery of readers/buyers sent publishers wild for Spanish edition texts of works that would appeal to Hispanics. The value of the novel (Like Water..
.
)to some critics was not that it was of any extraordinary literary quality, but that it was novel. It did something that a book had not done in a long time. It made a difference.
"It was the first sign? that Spanish-language books could sell. And sell well." - New York Times 3-13-95
Like Water for Chocolate was popular among the non-Hispanic population for another reason, one that does not reflect positively on the novel. Critics have argued that the only reason that the book sold well was because of the success of the accompa
nying movie. The New Yorker, in June of 1994, claimed that the book stayed on the bestseller list as long as it had (57 weeks at that time)"might be explained by the success of the accompanying movie." As the book represented a renaissance in Spanish-lang
uage texts, the film was, "on the larger scope? the return of Mexican cinema" (The Nation 6-14-93). It was followed quickly by a string of Latin-American films. In May, 1994, the movie version of Like Water... became the largest grossing foreign la
nguage film in US History. Ironically enough, movie critics claim that the success of the film is due to the success of the best-selling novel (L. A. Times, 5-12-94). "We had the simultaneous release of an award-winning movie, which brought in publicity that money couldn't buy." - Martha Levin, Publisher of DD Books
The most surprising audience for Like Water... is the culinary world. Esquivel and her first best-selling novel popped up in cookbooks and recipe albums all over the world.
"Blending family recipes with a haunting love story, the best-selling author of Like Water... awakened our hearts - and appetites." - Mark Seal (New Age Journal)
"?the beguiling story of food and love in Mexico?" - Paul Colford (L. A. Times)
Sources: Bearden, Michelle. "Esquivel's Spanish Primer." PW. Oct. 3, 1994. pp40-43.
Colford, Paul. "Publishers Catch on to Spanish-language Titles." L. A. Times, July 8, 1994.
Jaffe, Janice. "Hispanic American Women's Recipes and Laura Esquivel's Como Agua Para Chocolate." Women's Studies, 1993. Vol. 22, pp217-230.
Maryles, Daisy. "Behind the Bestsellers." PW. May 17, 1993. p17.
Perry, Charles. "If You Cook it, They Will Come." L. A. Times. May 12, 1994.
Seal, Mark. "Laura Esquivel's Healing Journey." New Age Journal. June 1, 1994. Vol. 11, No. 3, pp72-76.
Stavans, Ivan, "Tita's Feast." The Nation. June 14, 1993.
Stern, Jane and Michael. "Two For the Road." Gourmet. Feb. 1, 1995. Vol 55, No. 2, pp104 - 109.
"Sublime Alchemy." Australian Gourmet Traveler. Aug. 1, 1993. p20.
Tabor, Mary. "The Media Business; US Publishers Discover spanish as a Second Language." The NewYork Times. March 13, 1995. New Yorker, June 27, 1994. p80.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Like Water for Chocolate was a milestone in publishing history. After an almost twenty year dry spell of no Hispanic literature, Like Water for Chocolate was more than a hint to publishers, it was a
slap in the face. "It was the first concrete sign that Spanish-language books could sell. And sell well," said publishers to Mary Tabor of The New York Times in March of 1995. In the early nineties publishers found that there was money in publishing Af
rican-American and gay and lesbian books (Bearden 40). These trends were followed in the same manner with Like Water for Chocolate. However, there was a difference. The gay and lesbian and Afro-American texts were targeted at these audiences prior
to publishing. Like Water for Chocolate's success as a foreign-language book was a surprise. It was actually the author, Laura Esquivel, herself that insisted that the book be published simultaneously in English and Spanish in the US. Doubleday
was not thrilled with the idea, and set out tentatively at first, but found that this gamble was wise (Bearden 41). In some US cities, more Spanish versions sold than English versions (Arana-Ward X10)The reason, unnoticed previously by publishers, was the
exponential growth of Hispanic-Americans in the past twenty years. They are growing at almost five times the rate of the normal population and are quickly nearing 10% of the nation's population (Bearden 40). After this initial success, publishers ever
ywhere went wild. Within a year of Laura Esquivel's novel's first printing, Doubleday tried again with another Spanish novel, Poncho, that had been on Anchor's back list for over 35 years, selling around 5,000 books a year, but only in English.
After finding similar success with Poncho, dozens of other books were translated into trade paperbacks and stuffed into the impulse-buy racks at grocery stores. These titles included Danielle Steel's The Gift, Mary Ellen Ponce's Hoyt Street:
Memories of a Chicana Childhood
, Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street, Esmeralda Santiago's When I was Puerto Rican, Manuel Puig's The Kiss of the Spider Woman, and many, many more. These books did well on the marketplac
e. The trend of pushing Hispanic books has slowly subsided, simply because translating is difficult and risky, as well as expensive. However, new ground had been cut, and Like Water for Chocolate was what cut it. Laura Esquivel was questioned abou
t this new trend that her book started. She said that it was bound to happen at some point at that she got lucky. Besides, she did not believe that it was much of a trend. "It's not a passing fad or anything like that," she said. "The point of view that
is expressed in Latin-American writing is somehow responding to a need that exists in readers" (Herguth 27).
But why was Like Water for Chocolate so significant a book that it made it that far? Critics have claimed that the content of the book was rather callow (New Yorker 1994). Being so unlike war novels and profound works of literature, what special qu
ality about Like Water for Chocolate made it worthy of a multimillion dollar publishing house like Doubleday? Thousands upon thousands of novels are dumped at publishing houses daily. They are all shuffled through, and picked at, but the chances of
actually getting a book published are slim to none.
The top ten bestsellers in 1993 were: The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert Waller; The Client, by John Grisham; Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend, by Robert Waller; Without Remorse, by Tom Clancy; Nightmares and Dreamscapes,
by Stephen King; Vanished, by Danielle Steel; Lasher, by Anne Rice; Pleading Guilty, by Scott Turow; Like Water for Chocolate; and The Scorpio Illusion, by Robert Ludlum. Every one of those authors (except Robert Waller)
had had bestsellers before. In fact, the average number of bestsellers between those eight authors (other than Esquivel) is eight. Laura Esquivel was the only one of these authors who was publishing for the first time. Esquivel's novel had some recogniz
able quality that made it competitive with books that had best-selling names on their covers. Like Water for Chocolate was described initially by Doubleday as "a tall-tale, fairy-tale, soap-opera romance, Mexican cookbook and home remedy handbook
all rolled into one," (San Francisco Chronicle). This novel fit into so many genres so easily that it was a good bet for publishers. If it went wrong in one area, it still had many other categories it could succeed in.
Like Water for Chocolate actually succeeded in most all of those categories. The most probably reason for its high sales was the accompanying movie, but just the same, it must have had enough quality to be considered for production. Examination of the other bestsellers, and which magazines Laura Esquivel's name popped up in most frequently (Hispanic women's journals), reveals that Like Water for Chocolate more than likely shared a Daniel Steel quality of the romance novel as
well as the mystical appeal of an Anne Rice novel. Both of these women get TV movies made from their books, and they both get six-month intervals on the best-seller lists, but if their forces were combined, results such as Esquivel's would be seen.
Laura Esquivel was writing for the Hispanic women out there struggling for the "woman of the nineties" ideal. Like so many romance novels, Like Water for Chocolate presents a heroine initially swamped with problems and overwhelmed with her life, wh
o has her breakthrough by the end of the novel in triumphant success. However, unlike Danielle Steel's novels, where the heroine comes upon some major epiphany or self-discovery, gets the guy or the job, or the baby lives, Esquivel's heroine, Tita, bur
ns alive with her lover in the heat and utter bliss of their passion. Like Water for Chocolate revels in the ridiculous nature of romance novels, but the mystical, magical element of the story suspends disbelief up to a point where burning alive w
ith joy seems perfectly reasonable and only fitting (Jaffe 217). Even this incredible content is accepted by those readers who look upon the gothic element of Anne Rice's novels with disdain. Because most of these magical elements in Like Water for C
hocolate
are based upon Mexican mythology, tradition and culture, they make these fantastic events not unfeasible, but cultural. This extra bonus, the exotic factor, pushes Like Water for Chocolate over the edge. Hence, it incorporates romance
readers, mystic readers, sci-fi readers and escapists.
Latin-American women have struggled greatly to get out of female oriented jobs. Most still occupy blue-collar work. Tita de la Garza, Esquivel's heroine, is this woman. She is (every woman) the Hispanic women today that struggle with oppression, only she
is still in Mexico, on a ranch, in the traditional Mexican household. Tita was raised by the cook, Nacha, in the ranch kitchen. Unlike her two older sisters, Tita never enjoyed the pleasures of being a rich man's daughter. When she comes of age, Tita
falls in love with the handsome Pedro. Pedro professes undying love to her and she agrees to marry him. Unfortunately, this can not happen. Tita's mother (the big bad witch) - who seems to represent society - tells Tita that the youngest daughter will n
ever be allowed to marry, and she must stay at home and take care of the mother. (the Hispanic women can not make names for themselves or be themselves, they must always be servants) (de Valdes 78).
Tita and Pedro's love does not die, but he marries her sister in order to be closer to her. This satisfies the family for the most part, but Tita is devastated. This is the first mountain that Tita must climb: getting out from under the thumb of her moth
er. Her second most difficult trial is coping with the man she loves sleeping in the bed next to her sister. Her salvation comes through her powers of cooking. She somehow involves her emotions into her food so that they come out when people eat them. Sh
e is required to cook the wedding cake for her sister and Pedro's wedding. She cries so much into the batter that everyone at the wedding gets sick from the cake. "From the moment they took their first bite of cake, everyone was flooded with a great wave
of longing?.an acute attack of pain and frustration?. Everyone there, every last person, fell under this spell" (37). Tita also shares her bouts of passion and frustration to others through her food. This exotic magical behavior (the word magic is used o
ver 40 times in the book) empowers women with hope that they too can overcome oppression and old rules, if not any other way, then through the one thing that makes them essential to others (Fernandez-Levin 106).
American female readers had not seen this sort of story yet. Romance novels are continuously changing locale from the wild, wild west to the greens of Scotland. This new grown up fairy-tale promised to be a delight to avid pulp readers. It was more than
likely chosen out of the stacks of thousands of texts because it was novel, but was still that same sort of material that has been stocking the bestseller lists for almost ten years. It was never expected how dramatically the novel would effect American
literature or the movie industry.
And Like Water for Chocolate might have just been a popular sci-fi romance had it not been for the movie. The success of the accompanying movie was phenomenal. The movie was the largest grossing foreign language film in American history (Arana-Ward
X10). It seemed Americans did appreciate exotic, artistic movies after all, as long as they were really easy to understand. After the film version of Like Water for Chocolate (directed by Esquivel's husband, Alfonso Arau) was released in 1993, b
ox offices were swamped with other Hispanic movies. Some of these are Isabel Allende's "The House of the Spirits", Arau's "A Walk in the Clouds" (starring the oh-so-talented Keanu Reeves), "Desperado" (a 90's version of El Mariachi), "Fools Rush In" (h
alf Hispanic, half pushing FRIENDS star Matthew Perry), "Dance With Me", and "Zorro!" These movies introduced new Hispanic actors and actresses to Hollywood that have since become their own Hollywood version of pulp writers. With "the House of the Spirit
s" Hollywood met and fell in love with Antonio Banderas. He was the first Hispanic sex symbol the States had seen. That was, of course, until Salma Hayek came along in Desperado (co-starring Antonio Banderas). Both of these actors had been making Spanish
films for years, but the craze for Americanized Hispanic movies in the US brought them to Hollywood. By itself, Like Water for Chocolate was a good movie. But it is not important just because it was a good movie. It is particularly important becaus
e it was the movie that would trigger the rush of Hispanic culture into Hollywood.
The movie was the advertisement for Like Water for Chocolate, and together they introduced Hispanic culture into the United States. This is particularly important in a time where there was a degree of animosity in the nation over the number of immi
grating Cubans, Haitians and Latin Americans. Rather than being seen as immigrants they were seen as a culture-rich exotic brood. True, both the movie and the book played into stereotypes that Americans might have had of Latin America as being "lust-ridde
n, superstitious and amusingly spicy" (New Yorker 1994). After all, Like Water for Chocolate is a Mexican expression to describe a state of sexual arousal (Stavans, 846). However, Hispanic Americans did not seem to mind the stereotyping as long as
Americans were noticing that Hispanics were valuable people, too. Besides, the fact that Publishers recognized that they had a Hispanic audience in America is a sign that for nearly twenty years Hispanic immigrants had been seen as that, Hispanic immigra
nts, and now they were considered Americans (Campbell 9).
Laura Esquivel wrote one other book after Like Water for Chocolate. The Law of Love, her second novel, hit the American markets just as the Hispanic craze was dying down, and thus, it did not do well. However, her first book and movie opene
d a floodgate of Hispanic talent into the US. She can be thanked by the many movie stars and Hispanic novelists who might not have made names for themselves in American had it not been for her initial success.
Works Cited: Arana-Ward, Marie. "Laura Esquivel." The Washington Post, May 8, 1994. pX10.
Bearden, Michael. "Esquivel's Spanish Primer." Publisher's Weekly, October 3, 1994. Pp40-44.
Campbell, Kim. "Book Publishers say 'Hola' to US Hispanic Market." The Christian Science Monitor, April 20, 1995. Pp9.
De Valdes, Maria Elena. "Verbal and Visual Representations of Women: Como Agau Para Chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate." World Literature Today. Winter, 1995. V69 no.1, pp78-82.
Fernandez-Levin, Rosa. "Validating Feminine Consciousness: Ritual and "Sacred Space" in Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate." Confluencia. Fall 1996, v12, no.1, p106-120.
Herguth, Bob. "Esquivel Answers from the Heart." Chicago Sun Times, october 27, 1996. P27.
Jaffe, Janice. "Hispanic American Women Writers' Novel Recipes and Laura Esquivel's Como Agau Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)." Women's StudiesVolume 22, No. 2 (1993) pp217-230.
New Yorker. June 1994, pp80-81.
Stavans, Ivan. "Tita's Feast." The Nation. June 14, 1993. Pp846-848.
Tabor, Mary B. W. "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: U.S. Publishers Discover Spanish as a Second Language." The New York Times. March 13, 1995, Late Edition.

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