Hispanic Culture in Like Water for Chocolate

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As the first major U.S. success for a Spanish language film, Como Agua Para Chocolate (Alfonso Arau, 1992) has had a major impact on Hispanic culture and the future of Hispanic cinema. This film has many implicit and explicit layers that challenge typical cultural ideals, not only in Hispanic culture, but in various cultures across the world. Based on his wife, Laura Esquivel’s novel, Arau used this film, known commonly as Like Water for Chocolate, to bring to the surface the liberation of females through the empowerment of food. Although food and cooking are often associated with the oppression and generalization of Hispanic women, Like Water for Chocolate captivates an empowering view of women using intimate and heightened cinematography of the food.
To understand fully the implicit meaning and cultural challenges the film presents, a general knowledge of the film’s contents must be presented. The protagonist, Tita, suffers from typical Hispanic cultural oppression. The family rule, a common rule in this culture, was that the youngest daughter is to remain unwed for the duration of her mother’s life, and remain home to care for her. Mama Elena offers her daughter, Tita’s older sister Rosaura, to wed a man named Pedro, who is unknowingly in mutual love with Tita. Tita is forced to bake the cake for the wedding, which contains many tears that she cried during the process. Tita’s bitter tears cause all the wedding guests to become ill after consuming the cake, and Tita discovers she can influence others through her cooking. Throughout the film, Tita’s cooking plays an important role in all the events that transpire.
The most important events of this film all revolve around the female characters. While there are some male charac...

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...ighted by the director’s choices in cinematic elements. Although food and cooking are often associated with the oppression and generalization of Hispanic women, Like Water for Chocolate captivates an empowering view of women using intimate elements such editing, lighting, and setting in order to bring focus to the power of the food. The editing constantly brings attention back to the food. The setting reminds the viewer that the food impacts every aspect of the film. The lighting highlights the importance of the food over every other element. Every aspect of this film is aimed to show that the Hispanic woman, even in her typical role is a strong and central figure in the Hispanic culture. There is power in her life and everyday jobs that has a great impact on everyone around her, which is the precise thought that this film conveys and makes apparent to each viewer.

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