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Characters

A Juan Alejandrez

Juan is a captain in the revolutionary army when he first sees Gertrudis. He is known for his bravery, but when he smells the scent of roses emanating from Gertrudis’s body after she eats one of Tita’s magical dishes, he leaves the battlefield for the ranch. Juan sweeps Gertrudis up on his horse and carries her away from her home and her mother’s tyranny. The two later marry and return for a visit to the ranch as generals.

B Morning Light

John Brown’s grandmother, a Kikapu Indian whom his grandfather had captured and brought back to live with him. Rejected by his grandfather’s proud, intensely Yankee family, Morning Light spent most of her time studying the curative properties of plants. After her medicines saved John’s great-grandfather’s life, the family and the community accepted her as a miracle healer. While at John’s home, Tita sees her, or her spirit, making tea on the patio. As Tita spends time with her, they establish a silent communication with each other. Her spirit helps calm Tita. Later John tells Tita about his grandmother’s theory that we all need love to nourish our souls: “Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves…. Each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live.” Tita comes to accept and live by this theory.

C Esperanza Muzquiz

Pedro’s and Rosaura’s daughter. Tita insists that they name her Esperanza instead of her own name Josefita, because she does not want to “influence her destiny.” Nevertheless, her mother tries to impose the same kind of fate that her grandmother imposed on Tita, but Rosaura’s death frees Esperanza to marry Alex Brown, the man she loves.

D Pedro Muzquiz

Pedro Muzquiz marries Tita’s sister Rosaura only so he can stay close to Tita. He loves Tita, but shows little strength of character. He allows Mama Elena to run his life and separate him from the woman he loves. He also observes Tita’s suffering under Mama Elena’s domination and does little to intervene on her behalf. At one point Tita berates him for not having the courage to run off with her instead of marrying Rosaura. Marisa Januzzi, in her article in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, claims that “Pedro sometimes seems so unimaginative that only in fantasy … could such an underdeveloped male character and magical ending satisfy Tita.”

E Roberto Muzquiz

First child of Pedro and Rosaura. Tita establishes a mother-child bond with him when his mother is too ill to feed him. When Pedro observes Tita nursing his son, their relationship is further strengthened. After Roberto’s death Tita is unable to cope with the sorrow and descends into madness.

F Nacha

Nacha cooks for the De la Garza family and their ranch. Soon after she is born, Tita establishes a close relationship with Nacha. Since Tita’s mother is unable to nurse her, Nacha takes over the task of feeding her and exposes her to the magical world of the kitchen. During her childhood, Tita often escapes her mother’s overbearing presence and finds comfort in Nacha’s company. Nacha becomes Tita’s surrogate mother and the kitchen her playground and schoolhouse as Nacha passes down traditional Mexican recipes to her. Unfortunately, Tita loses Nacha’s support when, after tasting the icing Tita has prepared for Rosaura’s wedding cake, Nacha is “overcome with an intense longing” for her lost love, and she dies of a broken heart. Her spirit continues to aid Tita after her death, however, coming to her aid when she is delivering Rosaura’s first baby.

G Narrator

Esperanza’s daughter and Tita’s grandniece. The narrator explains that her mother found Tita’s cookbook in the ruins of the De la Garza ranch. Esperanza told her daughter the story of Tita’s life as she prepared the cookbook’s recipes. The narrator has combined those recipes and the stories her mother told her about Tita, explaining that Tita “will go on living as long as there is someone who cooks her recipes.”

H Jose Trevino

Jose Trevino was the love of Mama Elena’s life. Because he was mulatto-half-black-her parents forbid her to see him and forced her to marry Juan De la Garza instead. Mama Elena continued a relationship with him, however, and Gertrudis is his daughter. Tita only discovers this secret relationship after her mother’s death.

I Alex Brown

He is the son of Dr. John Brown; his mother died during his birth. He marries Esperanza Muzquiz, daughter of Pedro Muzquiz and Rosaura De la Garza, at the novel’s end.

J Dr. John Brown

The family doctor who lives in Eagle Pass. When he comes to attend Rosaura after Roberto’s birth, he is astounded by Tita’s beauty as well as her ability to assist her nephew’s difficult birth. He returns to the ranch when Mama Elena De la Garza calls him to take Tita to an insane asylum. He instead takes Tita to his home and nurses her back to health. Tita responds to his kindness and patience and agrees to marry him. His understanding of her dilemma after she confesses her infidelity with Pedro leads her to reconsider her decision to call off the wedding: “What a fine man he was. How he had grown in her eyes! And how the doubts had grown in her head!” At the last minute, however, she realizes that her love for Pedro is stronger than her affection for John.

K Gertrudis De la Garza

Gertrudis De la Garza is Tita’s strong-willed, free-spirited sister. The eldest of the sisters, she is a passionate woman who takes sensual pleasure from life. Tita’s cooking arouses such strong emotions in her that she runs off with a soldier in the revolutionary army and thus away from her mother’s oppression. When Mama Elena discovers that Gertrudis is working at a brothel soon after her disappearance from the ranch, she disowns her. It is only after Mama Elena’s death that Tita ironically discovers that Gertrudis was the product of their mother’s illicit affair with a half-black man. Gertrudis returns to the ranch after Mama Elena’s death, now married and a general in the revolutionary army. She advises Tita to follow her heart as she has done.

L Mama Elena De la Garza

Mama Elena De la Garza is the tyrannical, authoritarian, middle-class matron who runs her daughters’ lives along with the family ranch. She not only enforces the tradition that compels the youngest daughter to care for her widowed mother for the remainder of her life, she compounds Tita’s suffering by forcing her to prepare the wedding feast for Pedro and her sister. Suspecting a secret relationship between Pedro and Tita, she sends Rosaura, Pedro, and Roberto to her cousin’s in San Antonio. When Roberto subsequently dies, Tita blames her mother because she separated the child from Tita, who fed and nurtured him. Mama Elena doles out severe beatings and/or banishment from the family in response to any acts of rebellion. She beats Tita after the wedding guests eat Tita’s meal and become ill, and breaks her nose with a wooden spoon when Tita blames her for Roberto’s death. She banishes Tita from the ranch after Tita shows signs of madness and banishes Gertrudis for working in a brothel. Her need for control over her daughters is so strong that it does not end with her death. Her spirit appears to Tita to warn her to stay away from Pedro. When Tita refuses, Mama Elena becomes so angry that she causes Pedro to be severely burned. Her proud and stubborn nature also emerges after the bandits who raid the ranch injure her health. She feels humiliated by her need for Tita’s assistance and thus cannot accept her daughter’s offer of food and comfort-a rejection that ultimately leads to her death. Mama Elena does appear more human, though, when Tita discovers letters in her closet that reveal a secret passionate love affair from her past. After her lover and her husband died, Mama Elena suppressed her sorrow and never again was able to accept love.

M Rosaura De la Garza

The middle of the three sisters, Rosaura De la Garza marries the man Tita loves. She causes Tita further pain when she determines that her only daughter will care for her and never marry, according to family tradition. Maria Elena de Valdes, in her article in World Literature Today, notes that Rosaura tries to model herself after Mama Elena in her treatment of Tita and Esperanza. She becomes, however, “an insignificant imitation of her mother. She lacks the strength, skill, and determination of Mama Elena.” She also lacks her mother’s passion. Tita discovers that Mama Elena has suffered from the loss of her true love and suppressed her emotions. Rosaura, on the other hand, never seems to display any capacity for love. Rosaura does, however, share some similarities with her mother. Like Mama Elena, she is unable to provide nurturance for her children. Tita must provide sustenance for both of Rosaura’s children, just as Nacha had done for Tita. Also, Rosaura dies as her mother did, because of her inability to accept nurturance in the form of food from Tita.

N Tita De la Garza

Tita De la Garza is the obedient but strong-willed youngest daughter of Mama Elena. On the surface she accepts her mother’s dictates, even when they cause her to suffer the loss of the man she loves. Yet, she subtly rebels by rechannelling her feelings for him into the creation of delicious meals that express her passionate and giving nature. She obeys her mother’s order to throw away the roses Pedro has given her but not before she creates an exquisite sauce from the petals. Through her cooking, she successfully communicates to Pedro her love for him. Tita’s caring and forgiving nature emerges as she takes over the feeding of Rosaura’s two children when their mother is unable to nurse them and as she tends to her mother after being banished from the ranch. Even after Mama Elena accuses Tita of trying to poison her so she will be free to marry John, Tita patiently prepares her meals. When Rosaura suffers from severe digestive problems, Tita also comes to her aid. Even while Rosaura rails against Tita about her feelings for Pedro and threatens to send Esperanza away to school, Tita serves a special diet to help her sister lose weight and ease her suffering. Tita does, however have a breaking point. Her strength crumbles when Mama Elena sends Pedro, Roberto, and Rosaura away and later she hears the news of Roberto’s death, which pushes her into madness. After she regains her sanity, she seems to redouble her will. She stands up to Mama Elena’s spirit and thus refuses to be influenced by her. She also holds her own with Rosaura, and works out an arrangement where she can continue to have a relationship with Pedro and Esperanza. Her passion, however, is her most apparent characteristic. For over two decades, her intense feelings for Pedro never fade. Tita ultimately sacrifices her life for him when she lights herself on fire after his death so that their souls can forever be united.

O Paquita Lobo

The De la Garzas’ neighbor, who has unusually sharp senses. She is able to tell something is wrong with Tita when she is overcome by Pedro’s presence at their first meeting. She also suggests that Tita appears pregnant at the very time when Tita suspects the same thing.

P Chencha Martinez

A servant in the De la Garza household, Chencha becomes Tita’s confidante. She takes pity on Tita after Mama Elena banishes her from the ranch and pays her a secret visit at John Brown’s home. The soup she brings restores Tita’s sanity. When she returns to the ranch, she is brutally raped, but is strong enough to survive the ordeal. Tita allows her to leave the ranch after this trauma, knowing that “if Chencha stayed on the ranch near her mother, she would never be saved.” Chencha eventually marries her first love, Jesus Martinez, and returns to the ranch.

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