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Like Water for Chocolate: A Movie Analysis on Culture

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Like Water for Chocolate


Like Water for Chocolate: A Movie Analysis on Culture

Culture can be found everywhere. It can be the way one lives or the space where he/she spends most of his/her time. Culture can be the tradition that an ethnic group has or a trend of behavior that a class has. This word is one of the most encompassing words and is difficult to limit. Since several materials can be considered as text, “Like Water for Chocolate” would be read guided by Stuart Hall, Benedict Anderson, and Antonio Gramsci. Through these theorists, the culture of the cross-section of the Mexican Period, their family ties, and their sense of community will be explored.

Rules of Engagement

Before going to the analysis proper, the key terms that will be used in this output will be defined. According to Hall, popular culture “is the ground on which the transformations are worked” (Storey, 1998). It is what the masses consume, what the people do or are doing or have done, and it is the struggle between the classes. Popular culture involves the sites where the struggle for and against the culture of the powerful is done. Primarily, it is the activities of the people which give birth to changes and transformation.

On the other hand, the imagined community by Benedict Anderson is about the nation that is a community built or created socially by the people who regard themselves as part of that group. Anderson takes the community as imagined since the members of the nation will never get to know majority of their fellow-members, meet them, or even get to interact with them, but in their minds, they have the image of the communion (Anderson, 2016). It will be an imagined community since not everyone will get to know each other, and the concept of oneness is within the consciousness. Last concept will be Antonio Gramsci’s Hegemonic culture. Hegemony for him is the ‘cultural, moral, and ideological’ leadership of a group of people over mainstream and subaltern groups. This is the power behind the ideologies and culture that persist. It is the hand which makes them work.

The Film as an Imagined Community

The film “Like Water for Chocolates” is an example of popular culture and imagined community. It presents a different type of culture that is different from what we currently have at present. For the popular culture, the film shows the struggle for and against the culture of the powerful. These are the things that people do and those that transpire. In connection to popular culture, this involves all the things that are done by the people (Storey, 1998). Whether different or not, whether conventional or avante garde, if it is done by the people, it can qualify under the category of culture.

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Now, in the context of struggle and power, Tita’s mother holds the power more than anyone else that she managed to make the lives of both Pedro and Tita complicated by asking Pedro to marry Rosaura. The struggle of the couple, Tita and Pedro, is noteworthy that even if it was a sweet but tragic end, they never gave up on their feelings towards each other even if the stronger or in power placed all the possible hindrances between them.

On the other hand, for the imagined communities, the entire family and community where Tita lives and where Tita got to interact is an imagined community. That community is considered as an imagined community since the nation is always given birth as deep and horizontal comradeship (Anderson, 2016). There should be a deep connection where everyone gets to interact with each other. However, not all of them get to meet each other in a deep sense. Only those within the family get to have the interaction. But because there is an imagined community, they follow rules and norms set by themselves. In those scenes, culture comes into picture as it involves the models for behavior and norms for what is regarded as norms considering what is moral or not, proper or not (Murphy, 1989). Tita was not able to do anything when her mom asked her sister to marry Pedro. There were norms that they had to follow. Even the mother herself also got into thinking that her youngest should not marry and that she should live with her until she dies. This concept is somewhat evident in other cultures until now considering children as their possessions.

Aside from this, even if Tita and Pedro loved each other, they still waited for the time that they can be together. This does not mean that they did not have violations. They did because initially, Tita even thought that she is pregnant. However, since there is the norm, they had to keep their feelings and whatever they wanted to do. That is primarily because it is not what their community accepts. Their lives became complicated simply because of the decision of the one in power and that was Dona Elena, Tita’s mother.

The periphery that is resisting in the film for me to fully understand it would be the language. Aside from this will be the time that it intends to present. Although I was able to get a lot from the film with the subtitle, it would have been different if I fully got the historical context and the language based on the direct speech and not only depending on the translation.


With that, the film “Like Water for Chocolates” is a rich film from which one can draw the sense of popular culture and imagined community. It shows how intricate culture and norms could be and how the imagined community can also affect the lives of the individual. A person may suffer or get to enjoy his or her life because of the rules that the imagined community has set. However, those rules cannot always apply with everyone just like how it went with Tita and Pedro. Culture affects the individuals and of course, the individuals also affect and even create the culture.


Anderson, Benedict R. OG. (2016). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Verso, pp. 44 – 55. Print.

Murphy, Robert F. (1989). Cultural and social anthropology 2nd Edition. Prentice Hall, pp. 19 – 27. Print.

Storey, John. (1998). Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader. Peason: Prentice Hall, pp. 440 – 462. Print.

Like Water for Chocolate

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