Esquivel, Laura 1950-

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Esquivel, Laura 1950-


Born September 20, 1950, in Mexico; daughter of Julio Caesar (a telegraph operator) and Josephina Esquivel; married Alfonso Arau (a film director), 1975; children: Sandra. Education: Attended Escuela Normal de Maestros, Mexico. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking.


Home—Mexico City, Mexico.


Writer and screenwriter. Has written and directed children's theater; previously worked as a teacher for eight years. Producer of the film La Mirada de la ausencia, 1990.


Ariel Award nomination for best screenplay, Mexican Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, for Chido One.


Chido One (screenplay), 1985.

Como agua para chocolate: novela de entregas mensuales con recetas, amores, y remedios caseros (novel), Editorial Planeta Mexicana, 1989, translation by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen published as Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.

Like Water for Chocolate (screenplay; based on her novel of the same title), Miramax, 1992.

Little Ocean Star (screenplay for children), 1994.

Ley del amor (novel), translation by Margaret Sayers Peden published as The Law of Love, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.

Intimas suculencias: Tratado filosofico de cocina (novel), Ollero & Ramos (Madrid, Spain), 1998.

Between Two Fires: Intimate Writings on Life, Love, Food, and Flavor (novel), translation by Stephen Lytle, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2000.

Tan velos como el deseo (novel), Plaza y Janes Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 2001, translation by Stephen Lytle published as Swift as Desire, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2001.

Malinche (novel), translated by Ernesto Mestre-Reed, illustrations by Jordi Castells, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of the story for the film Tacos de oro, 1985. Like Water for Chocolate was also published in serial format in its entirety in the New York Times' Metro Section, 2004.


Mexican author Laura Esquivel, who gained international recognition with her first novel, Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), began writing when she worked in a theater workshop for children and found that there was little material available for them to perform. She then moved into writing for children's public television, and then into screenwriting.

Working in partnership with her husband, Mexican director Alfonso Arau, Esquivel wrote the screenplay for the 1985 Mexican release Chido One, which Arau directed. The film's success prompted the couple to continue their collaboration, and Arau became the director when Esquivel adapted Like Water for Chocolate for the screen. Both the novel and movie were enormously popular. A number-one best-seller in Mexico in 1990, the book has been translated into numerous languages, including an English language version, which enjoyed a longstanding run on the New York Times Book Review best-seller list in 1993. The movie became one of the highest-grossing foreign films of the decade. Employing in this work the brand of magic realism that Gabriel García Márquez popularized, Esquivel blends culinary knowledge, sensuality, and alchemy with fables and cultural lore to capture what Washington Post reviewer Mary Batts Estrada called "the secrets of love and life as revealed by the kitchen."

Like Water for Chocolate is the story of Tita, the youngest of three daughters born to Mama Elena, the tyrannical owner of the De la Garza ranch. Tita is a victim of tradition: as the youngest daughter in a Mexican family she is obliged to remain unmarried and to care for her mother. Experiencing pain and frustration as she watches Pedro, the man she loves, marry her older sister Rosaura, Tita faces the added burden of having to bake the wedding cake. But because she was born in the kitchen and knows a great deal about food and its powers, Tita is able to bake her profound sense of sorrow into the cake and make the wedding guests ill. "From this point," as James Polk remarked in the Tribune Books, "food, sex and magic are wondrously interwoven." For the remainder of the novel, Tita uses her special culinary talents to provoke strange reactions in Mama Elena, Rosaura, Tita's other sister, Gertrudis, and many others.

Food has played a significant role in Esquivel's life since she was a child. Remembering her early cooking experiences and the aromas of foods cooked in her grandmother's house, she told New York Times correspondent Molly O'Neill that "I watch cooking change the cook, just as it transforms the food." The author added: "Food can change anything." For Esquivel, cooking is a reminder of the alchemy between concrete and abstract forces. Writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Karen Stabiner remarked that Esquivel's novel "is a wondrous, romantic tale, fueled by mystery and superstition, as well as by the recipes that introduce each chapter." Polk, in his Tribune Books review, wrote that "Like Water for Chocolate (a Mexican colloquialism meaning, roughly, agitated or excited) is an inventive and mischievous romp—part cookbook, part novel."

Esquivel followed with The Law of Love, a highly imaginative novel that features reincarnation and cosmic retribution and attests to the primacy of love. The story opens with the sixteenth-century Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, the future site of Mexico City, and the rape of an Aztec princess atop a temple. Many centuries later the principal actors of this earlier drama reappear as astro-analyst Azucena, her missing soul mate Rodrigo, and planetary presidential candidate Isabel in a confrontation that finally breaks the cycle of vengeance and hatred with love and forgiveness. The text is accompanied by a compact disc with music and cartoon illustrations. This "multimedia event," as described by Lilian Pizzichini in the Times Literary Supplement, incorporates elements of magic realism, science fiction, and New Age philosophy. Pizzichini concluded: "Esquivel dresses her ancient story in a collision of literary styles that confirm her wit and ingenuity. She sets herself a mission to explore the redemptive powers of love and art and displays boundless enthusiasm for parody."

In Swift as Desire, Esquivel explores communication between people, telling the story of Jubilo, a former telegraph operator who now has Parkinson's disease and is mostly blind and mute. His daughter Lluvia, hoping to help him to communicate and also hoping to bring him back together with her mother Lucha, from whom he is estranged, installs telegraph equipment in his bedroom so that he can tap out messages in Morse code; a computer translates them into written words. Jubilo's life story is told in flashbacks, revealing how he learned of the power of communication and words when he became a telegraph operator and sent messages of love and fate over the wires. Jubilo has certain gifts: his hearing is so sensitive that he can hear the movements of a fetus in his wife's womb; he can hear people's true thoughts, which are often different from the telegraph messages they send. In the New York Times, William Ferguson wrote that although Esquivel's prose is occasionally "cloying," the book "has many charms." Writing in the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, Katrinka Blicke noted that the storyline is sometimes interrupted by digressions on sunspots or World War II history. However, she wrote, "Jubilo is a fascinating character." In another Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service review, Marta Barber wrote that "the love story of Jubilo and Lucha warms the heart even when it doesn't jolt the mind." In School Library Journal, Adriana Lopez praised the book as "a smooth, simple read for devotees of a quality romance." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "Esquivel's storytelling abilities are in top form here, and despite its unoriginality, the novel succeeds in conveying a touching message of the power of familial and romantic love."

In her novel Malinche, Esquival provides a fictional account of the legendary Mexican historical figure Malinalli, who served as the conquistador Cortez's mistress and guide. Although Malinalli has been considered a traitor in South American history, Esquival presents a different view of the woman as someone who loves her people and initially views Cortez as the reincarnation of the god Quetzalcoatl until she realizes the real nature of his mission. A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented on the novel, noting: "Esquivel is less interested in fleshing out the plot than in delineating the belief system of the pre-Aztec civilization, everything that happens to Malinalli is swathed in imagery and deep spiritual significance." In a review in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tanya Barrientos noted that the author's "prose … sings with the rhythm of myth." Mary Margaret Benson wrote in the Library Journal that "the descriptions of Malinche's beliefs in the roles of the ancient gods and her observations on Christianity are fascinating and well written."



Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 29, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Americas, September, 1999, Cecilia Novella, review of Intimas suculencias: Tratago filosofico de cocina, p. 60.

Booklist, June 1, 2001, Kathleen Hughes, review of Swift as Desire, p. 1798; February 15, 2006, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Malinche, p. 5.

Financial Times, July 8, 2006, Diana Stech, review of Malinche, p. 33.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of Malinche, p. 198.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, September 26, 2001, Marta Baber, review of Swift as Desire, p. K7344; October 10, 2001, Katrinka Blicke, review of Swift as Desire, p. K5186.

Library Journal, December, 2000, Wendy Miller, review of Between Two Fires: Intimate Writings on Life, Love, Food, and Flavor, p. 131; July, 2001, Mary Margaret Benson, review of Swift as Desire, p. 122; April 15, 2006, Mary Margaret Benson, review of Malinche, p. 66.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 1, 1992, Karen Stabiner, review of Like Water for Chocolate, p. 6.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 3, 2006, Lori Price, review of Malinche.

New Statesman, August 27, 2001, Rachel Cooke, "Pleasure Zone," p. 39.

New York Times, March 31, 1993, Molly O'Neill, "Sensing the Spirit in All Things, Seen and Unseen," interview with author, pp. C1, C8; October 7, 2001, William Ferguson, review of Swift as Desire, p. 22.

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 16, 2006, Tanya Barrientos, review of Malinche.

Publishers Weekly, February 5, 1996, Paul Nathan, "Esqsuivel's Next," p. 24; July 3, 2000, John F. Baker, "Esquival Back to Family for Crown," p. 12; December 4, 2000, review of Between Two Fires, p. 70; July 16, 2001, review of Swift as Desire, p. 165; May 30, 2005, John F. Baker, "Esquivel Is Back," p. 9; February 27, 2006, review of Malinche, p. 31.

School Library Journal, September, 2001, Adriana Lopez, review of Swift as Desire, p. S33; November, 2001, Molly Connally, review of Swift as Desire, p. 191.

Times Literary Supplement, October 18, 1996, Lilian Pizzichini, review of The Law of Love, p. 23; October 5, 2001, Claudia Pugh-Thomas, review of Swift as Desire, p. 26.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 18, 1992, James Polk, review of Like Water for Chocolate, p. 8.

Washington Post, September 25, 1992, Mary Batts Estrada, review of Like Water for Chocolate, p. B2.


Internet Movie Database, (December 20, 2006), information on author's film work.