Laura Esquivel

Laura Esquivel. The Mexican writer is best known for her enormously popular 1989 novel Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate).

Laura Esquivel (born 1950) is a Mexican writer who is best known for her enormously popular 1989 novel Like Water for Chocolate. The novel was made into a film in 1994, which became one of the most successful foreign films ever released in the United States. She has written children's plays, movies, short stories, and several novels, many of which offer readers a glimpse into a world similar to our own, but where sudden moments of magic highlight an otherwise realistic storyline. Her novels often explore creative concepts in storytelling, as they have featured illustrations, cooking recipes, and a musical CD.

Laura Esquivel discovered her calling as a writer in the 1970s while teaching kindergarten, where she enjoyed writing plays for her young pupils. The work suited her educational background, having studied education and drama with a special focus on children’s theater. Later she took a class on screenwriting, an experience that would have a dramatic impact on her life. Her teacher, Alfonso Arau, had directing and acting experience, and he is best known to American audiences for his eccentric and stereotype-creating roles as comical villains and a fun-loving Colombian drug lord in Hollywood movies such as Romancing the Stone and The Three Amigos. Esquivel and Arau would later marry and collaborate on successful projects, the first of which was Chido Guan, el tacos de oro, an inspiring film about a young soccer player who must defy challenging odds to help bring his team to victory. Esquivel wrote and Arau directed the movie which ended up winning the prestigious Ariel award in 1985.

Shortly after the couples’ relative success with Chido Guan, Laura Esquivel went to work on writing her first novel entitled Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), an expression that refers to heating water to a boiling point to make chocolate, which in turn alludes to a heated situation that has reached a breaking point. The title’s clever use of flavorful language to capture the tone of the novel preludes food references and culinary symbolism throughout the book. The book was first published in Mexico in 1989. She later wrote the screenplay for the movie version of the novel working again with husband Alfonso Arau who directed.

In 1994, the movie and the English translation of the book were released in the U.S. Audiences were charmed by the story, a bittersweet tale of love which celebrates the familiar, perhaps nostalgic aromas and tastes of home cooking and which makes use of magic and humor to explore relationships and the emotions they inspire, such as jealousy between siblings. The book treats readers to a fresh new tantalizing recipe at the beginning of each chapter, where zesty ingredients set the tone for character development and plot twists. The story somehow effectively convinces us that heart-felt cooking can make the world a more loving place. The novel quickly became a bestseller and went on to win the American bookseller Book of the Year Award. It has been translated into more than 30 languages.

Esquivel’s highly anticipated follow-up novel, the historic and futuristic The Law of Love, is an ambitious undertaking, as it attempts nothing less than to explain the divine laws of the universe through the context of science fiction and historical fiction. The story mostly takes place in the 23rd century, where characters busy themselves with recalling past lives and forgiving their enemies in the hopes of existing in harmony with cosmic order. Other books by Laura Esquivel include Swift as Desire (2001), a heartfelt story about a telegraph operator (a tribute to Esquivel’s father, also a telegraph operator) who ironically must learn the vital importance of communication, and Malinche, based loosely on historical fact about the relationship between the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and a woman who first served as his translator and later became his mistress. Her novels often treat the topic of destiny, showing characters’ ability and inability to control their fate.

More recently, Esquivel has entered politics, winning a seat in Mexico City’s Local Council. Hopefully, for fans of her magical fiction, she will still find time to continue providing us with wonderful glimpses into her unique vision of the world through the sensual imagery she so naturally uses to weave passionate and spiritual tales packed with a delicious blend of bold tastes and emotions.