Interview with Laura Esquivel
Laura Esquivel, born in 1950 in Mexico City, is a writer known worldwide for her successful first novel, Like Water for Chocolate (1989), a work that combines culinary art, magical realism and romance. It has been translated into more than 30 languages and made into a successful film (it won 10 Ariels from the Mexican Academy of Film). She studied education and theater and dramatic creation and has dabbled in politics. The author’s literary works also include La ley del amor (1995), Íntimas suculencias (1998), Estrellita marinera (1999), El libro de las emociones (2000), Tan veloz como el deseo (2001) and Malinche (2004). Laura Esquivel took part in the latest edition of the Writers’ Conference and gave an interview to Atención.
Jade Arroyo: Do you think there should be more support for culture from the Mexican government?
Laura Esquivel: Yes, of course. A few years ago I was at the forefront of culture in Coyoacán, and it is really painful to see the percentage of the budget that goes to culture. Nobody is interested in the promotion of culture; there is neglect and I think it is not more urgent to use the budget for arms instead. It is because art and culture have a powerful transformational property; creative people are aware of this. This worries people who want citizens who are followers and who don’t think; they give an education in which people do what they are told. Education should be through art and culture.
JA: Is there art among the people?
LE: You just have to go out and see that we are surrounded by art; our people are truly impressive—they exude art: You see this in every woman who is embroidering, cooking, etc. We just have to allow them the opportunity to develop it, let them express themselves.
JA: Is there “feminine” literature?
LE: I’ve been answering that question for 25 years and I just keep getting into trouble! [laughter]. Maybe, from the themes you choose and how you approach them you can speak of a feminine or masculine vision, but it is independent of gender. The thing is: How do I see the world? How do I approach it? And how do I write it?
JA: What are the constants in your work? Does a sense of “Mexicanism” influence you?
LA: Definitely. A constant in my work is my faith in the transformative capacity of human beings and my deep faith in love. Not a sentimental vision but love on another level. Also of the sacred feminine, what allows us to connect with each other, this vision of how to realize that we are not individual beings acting individually but we are acting holistically. Every act we do is affecting the whole, as the cosmogony of the Maya, whose ancestors spoke of this. They said that the universe is a resonant matrix and we are connected by the
umbilical cord. I believe that. I think the conflict is that we do not believe.
JA: What is love?
LE: It is a binder and inclusive energy that allows the binding between particles, between elements, including humans. Without this capability, it is not possible for two separate things to become one.
JA: What is your objective for writing? Why do you write?
LE: I write because I like it. Because I know it has been a means to delve into the world around me, to express myself, to even give voice to the voiceless ones. I think that’s the purpose. I don’t know about everyone else. The act of writing is always a mystery, but it helps the one who writes first.
JA: How can we encourage reading?
LA: By having libraries at each school. In order to have adult readers there must be young readers first. Also, children should begin to write, to make their own stories.
JA: Do you have any current projects?
LE: In late April my latest novel, A Lupita le gustaba planchar, will be published. It is the story of a policewoman in Mexico today.