Tradition is the glue that binds everything, whether it be a nation, religion, or even a simple family. Tradition, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a “customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.” Traditions can vary from elementary patterns to elaborate practices., For example, a common tradition many people follow would be giving someone a cake on their birthday. On the more complicated end, some religions, such as Hindu, might have complicated ritual cleansings after touching the dead that might last for days. In the case of the De la Garza family in Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel, their age old tradition was to have the youngest daughter serve their mother until her passing. Being the youngest, Tita De la Garza was forced to serve her mother, Mama Elena, even though a suitor, Pedro, offered to take her hand in marriage. Because of this tradition, Pedro is forced to marry Tita’s sister, Rosaura, instead. Leaving both parties, Pedro and Tita, heartbroken and unable to be with their true love. Both Pedro and Tita are left heartbroken and unable to be with their other half. This forces the us to question the De la Garza’s family tradition; is it repressive or does it help bring self-actualization to Tita.
First we must examine how the characters in the story are affected by this tradition. On one hand, Tita’s mother has a wonderful caretaker who is also an amazing cook. But on the other hand, Tita bears a great deal of stress and heartbreak because she’s unable to be with Pedro. In an attempt to help, Pedro marries Rosaura so he could be near Tita, but this eventually ends up tormenting Tita because they can never be together. Luckily for Tita, Pedro and Rosaura do bare a son whom Tita is able to breastfeed and care for, and for a short time that makes Tita happy. But, because Tita breastfed Pedro’s son, the child was unable to drink Rosaura’s milk, forcing him to starve to death. This brings Tita to tears, ultimately leading her to lash out against her mother and be sent away to live with Dr. Brown. From these series of events, the story seems to emphasize how destructive this tradition is.
The second data point to examine would be the turn the story takes a turn toward the end of May, when Tita finds someone to care for her. Before this, she’s in a deep state of depression, with her only source of happiness being a fat pigeon. Luckily for her, Dr. Brown brings her into a loving home, removing her from Mama Elena’s oppressive regime. Tita is able to explore what’s left of her nanny, Nacha, and with the help of food she’s able to relive the moments she had with her. This helps bring Tita out of her depression and leaves her capable of mourning the loss of her mother.
Tradition brings us together, but it also has the power to ruin us. In Tita’s case, her family tradition drives her insane and eventually gets her sent off to live with Dr. Brown. But, in his care she finally is able to spread her wings and explore the roots of her emotional distress. Laura Esquivel uses this story to show that certain traditions aren’t for everyone, and it should be applied on a case by case basis, but the author also tells her readers that there is always a way out. The De la Garza’s family tradition is repressive and immoral. But, the author encourages those in Tita’s place to communicate with their loved ones to help lift them out of depression.
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