Laura Esquivel: “Every picture and every word heals”
Interview with Laura Esquivel
In the Miami Book Fair, we had the privilege of interviewing the Mexican writer. She presented her book “Pierced by the Sun.” We talked about the defining features of her work and her clear vision of the contemporary world.
What is the central topic of your work?
I think, it is love. It has always been in my work, its obstacles and complications. There is another topic related to a deep belief and conviction in the human transformative capacity.
How they can reinvent, transform and purge themselves, to become a different person.
So, literature is a shamanic practice of healing?
Every picture and every word heals. Sometimes, I address things people do not like, such as the responsibility of those in charge of pictures and words. The work is not about being successful or not, getting recognition or not, selling or not, but getting in touch with the sensible world of the readers, the world of their feelings. A world connected with the world of the reason, because there is no division between them. When you touch the heart, you touch the mind, sharing information that brings out the best of people. Therefore, I believe there is an alchemical process in literature, music, cooking, in everything.
Latin America grew up from magical realism, and we have been in trouble since then because we are constantly looking for magical solutions. You, as a writer, have made a contribution with images and metaphors to this topic, but I have read your interviews, and you express with a clear mind. How can you address sensitive topics throughout metaphors?
Going beyond the functions of language and images is necessary. We all have unconscious archetypes with us. They come to our minds when we get in touch with certain information. I mean, instead of talking about murder and death of a loved one, we could understand that death is not real because life is not related to the body but with something beyond. In the novel, Like water for chocolate, the apparition of Tita’s mother is not magical realism. A castrating mother will appear before the daughter until she confronts her. That’s what Tita does; she says “I hate you, I hated you, I hate you, ” and the mother goes away.
Now, I go further in my last novel: Tita’s diary. There is a reassessment and reconciliation with the mother. It is beautiful because the book shows twenty lost years of Like water for chocolate. So, I work those symbols and images again.
Are your books parts of a whole?
Now, I was invited to the Fair for my book Pierced by the Sun. But I have a new book Tita’s diary; this is the second part of a trilogy. The next year the last part will come.
Kitchen and woman are topics always present in your work. Ironically, in the contemporary world, the most renowned chef are men. I have a friend, a Venezuelan chef (Elena Ibarra). She says men are chef because they need to kill their mothers.
Usually, professional chefs are looking for money, not for providing welfare or love. They do excellent work, but that’s different. TV shows about chefs in the US are contests where quick cooking is the plot. However, time doesn’t matter for women cooking in our countries. Their aim is spiritual nutrition and it is not important what chef is better because the idea is to continue traditions.
So, the sacred femininity is shown: joining, giving with generosity and love, energy always circulating.
You give a place among your characters to anonymous women and anti-heroines, like the one in Lupita.
They are heroines to me. They work from intimacy with actions that make no sense for a world dominated by production, consumerism, where time is money and surviving means crushing others. So, these violated and ignored women, day by day, fight a personal struggle from resistance. Lupita is my favorite character because she is the sacred feminine archetype. She is a mirror for women who tell me “I am Lupita”; This is a compliment to me.
This topic goes beyond gender. It’s a revindication of the feminine role.
I try to show a worldview of those women, marked by the historical past. Let us ask, how many generations succumbed to alcohol? How many generations have suffered violations and abuses? How many generations does it take for a country to realize that their problems are the stolen elections, plundering, humiliations, be left on its own?, What does a person should think? And why do people not overcome that condition? That’s the reason of the character, Lupita.
Do you think women have to reinvent themselves or should continue competing with the establishment?
This country had a woman candidate for presidency. It was unthinkable in the past.
Worthy women have contributed to this system, but we are not on the right path. Who needs this terrible government?
Fear is the only thing that can paralyze a person. That’s why there are policies to generate fear, but how should we face fear?
We have to take a different way than division, extreme individuality, the law of the jungle, predation and collective suicide.
The right way to go is based on collaboration, sharing in community, and fostering values. The solution is to create sustainable communities: small, integrated and coordinated. We have to go back to basics to create and change. How long will it take? Nobody knows, but it’s time for the first step.
Like water for chocolate (1989)
The law of love (1995)
Íntimas suculencias (1998)
Estrellita marinera (1999)
El libro de las emociones (2000)
Swift as desire (2001)
Malinche: A novel (2004)
Pierced by the Sun (2014)
Tita’s Diary (2016)