Laura Esquivel, Writer
Written by the HIP Mexico Team
Mexican literary luminary Laura Esquivel is a tireless giver on multiple fronts. In addition to being among the best known and most read contemporary authors, she promotes community and cultural programs in Mexico and has been a champion for human rights. As a giver, Esquivel lives and breathes art and social justice. One project that she is particularly proud of involves the use of music along with other rehabilitative services for young prison inmates. The program’s benefits have extended beyond the prison walls. As part of the celebration for last summer’s release of her most recent novel, “A Lupita Le Gustaba Planchar,” she had members of the City of Oaxaca Police Band and a group of former convicts perform a concert together. She earned global acclaim in 1989 with her first novel “Like Water for Chocolate.” The famous story, which concocts magic realism by mixing love and recipes, has been translated into 36 languages and was a New York Times bestseller for over a year.
She was the scriptwriter in 1991 of the novel’s wildly successful film adaptation. It fed a family passion for filmmaking, which she shares with two of her children and Director Alfonso Arau, her former husband. She also serves on a variety of film festival juries. But, she says, she wants to spotlight positive influences that movies can have. Expanding on a theme of countering the effects of media violence and negative messaging that she tackled in her nonfiction book, “El Libro de las Emociones” (2000), Esquivel dreams of creating a festival to recognize filmmaking that strikes peacemaking, positive, and healing themes. It would further her aim to promote societal healing through the arts.
Esquivel also has not shied away from political activism and human rights advocacy. In 2012, when the Tucson Unified School District ended its ethnic studies program and banned teaching “Like Water for Chocolate” and other books, Esquivel didn’t mince words.
“I am so very sorry, not as much for my work as for an educational system that denies its students the right to get another point of view, to know other ways of life, to receive the fresh air that would allow them to acquire a planetary awareness,” the former kindergarten teacher wrote on Facebook. In 1988, Esquivel became a founding member of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). In 2009, she won a borough executive primary but lost in the general election. A year later, the winner appointed her to head the General Directorate of Culture in Coyoacan, where she lives in Mexico’s capital. In this way, Esquivel has combined her quest for social change with her artistic identity. “If we truly want to imagine a new, different way of living, we must do it through art,” she said. “There’s no other way; it is through stimulating art that we can imagine ourselves as active beings in our countries, in our families, and not as victims.”
The 31 HIPGivers recognized in 2015 are collectively altering the landscape for our country. They are pushing the envelope by asking for more – more consideration, more awareness, more compassion, more action, more giving.