El best-seller en la narrativa mexicana desde los ochenta: Mercadeo, anticanon y ambivalencia en Angeles Mastretta, Laura Esquivel y Maria Amparo Escandon

Date of Completion

January 2005


Literature, Latin American




This dissertation examines three best-selling Mexican novels that have crossed national borders after receiving multiple literary prizes: Ángeles Mastretta's Arráncame la vida (1985), Laura Esquivel's Como agua para chocolate (1989), and María Amparo Escandón's Santitos (1997). The purpose of the study is to provide the first critical commentary about the Best-sellers in contemporary Mexican novels written by women, their best-selling antecedents, and the original elements to this new aesthetic. Although this process itself is not limited to Mexico, in the mid-1980s the Mexican literary and cinematographic markets opened new ground for female Hispanic authors as a result of the successful reader response to their works at the local and the international levels. The commercial classification of Best-seller has facilitated the literary canonization of male authors such as Asturias and García Márquez in Spanish America, but the same cannot be said with respect to the literary work written by women, in this case, contemporary female Mexican authors. Nevertheless, the vast diffusion of these works has given rise to a novel appraisal and perception that today seems to promote their inclusion in many universities syllabi, the growing selection as topics in literary conferences and as material of study in general. An ancillary purpose of the study is to investigate the technical and thematic elements that characterize these novels, either as a literary or market product, as well as the appropriation of stereotypes and/or cultural elements traditionally attributed to Mexicans or Latin Americans in order to subvert them. Though these works seem to merely satisfy the mass audience through an accessible narrative that provides a linear plot, simple characters, and a strong reference to national culture, a deeper reading conveys an ironic plot critical of historical references and cultural attitudes. That is, these characteristics often related to the negative denomination of "low" or "light literature" assign new meanings to Como agua para chocolate, Arráncame la vida and Santitos by ironically criticizing and subverting the same conventions present in the texts and constitutes a mechanism of literary-commercial interest that seems to promote these novels to the classification of Best-sellers. ^