Like Water for Chocolate

Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) Character Analysis

“Mama Elena” is the matriarch of the De la Garza family and the novel’s antagonist. She is the wife of Juan De la Garza and the mother of Tita, Rosaura, and Gertrudis. Widowed after Tita’s birth, Mama Elena runs the family’s ranch with a firm and efficient hand. As a young woman, she was forbidden from being with her sweetheart, Jose Treviño, because he was black. Even after she marries Juan de la Garza, she continues a secret affair with Jose until his death. To her children and those who work for her, she is unfeeling and harsh. She is especially insufferable to Tita, whom she abuses both emotionally and physically. Her ferocious nature makes her a powerful protector of those under her care, despite her often turning that ferocity on the very ones she is supposed to protect.

Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) Quotes in Like Water for Chocolate

The Like Water for Chocolate quotes below are all either spoken by Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) or refer to Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Like Water for Chocolate published in 1995.
Chapter 1: January Quotes

You don’t have an opinion, and that’s all I want to hear about it. For generations, not a single person in my family has ever questioned this tradition, and no daughter of mine is going to be the one to start.

Related Characters: Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) (speaker), Tita de la Garza
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 2: February Quotes

She felt like screaming. Yes, she was having problems, when they had chosen something to be neutered, they’d made a mistake, they should have chosen her. At least then there would be some justification for not allowing her to marry and giving Rosaura her place beside the man she loved.

Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3: March Quotes

Mama Elena’s eyes were as sharp as ever and she knew what would happen if Pedro and Tita ever got the chance to be alone […] She had let one little thing slip past her: With Nacha dead, Tita was the best qualified of all the women in the house to fill the vacant post in the kitchen, and in there flavors, smells, textures and the effects they could have were beyond Mama Elena’s iron command.

Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
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It occurred to her that she could use her mother’s strength right now. Mama Elena was merciless, killing with single blow. But then again not always. For Tita she had made an exception; she had been killing her a little at a time since she was a child, and she still hadn’t quite finished her off. Pedro and Rosaura’s marriage had left Tita broken in both heart and in mind, like the quail.

Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 5: May Quotes

I have a very good aim and a very bad temper, Captain. The next shot is for you, and I assure you that I can shoot you before they can kill me, so it would be best for us to respect each other. If we die, no one will miss me very much, but won’t the nation mourn your loss?

Related Characters: Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) (speaker), Juan Alejandrez
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6: June Quotes

Instead of eating, she would stare at her hands for hours on end. She would regard them like a baby, marveling that they belonged to her. She could move them however she pleased, yet she didn’t know what to do with them, other than knitting. She had never taken time to stop and think about these things.

Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7: July Quotes

Now she finally understood the meaning of the expression “fresh as a head of lettuce” – that’s the odd, detached way a lettuce should feel at being separated abruptly from another lettuce with which it had grown up. It would be illogical to expect it to feel pain at this separation from another lettuce with which it had never spoken, nor established any type of communication, and which it only knew from its outer leaves, unaware that there were many others hidden inside it.

Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
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During the funeral Tita really wept for her mother. Not for the castrating mother who had repressed Tita her entire life, but for the person who had lived a frustrated love. And she swore in front of Mama Elena’s tomb that come what may, she would never renounce love.

Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10: October Quotes

I know who I am! A person who has a perfect right to live her life as she pleases. Once and for all, leave me alone; I won’t put up with you! I hate you, I’ve always hated you!
Tita had said the magic words that would make Mama Elena disappear forever.

Related Characters: Tita de la Garza (speaker), The Narrator (speaker), Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza)
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) Character Timeline in Like Water for Chocolate

The timeline below shows where the character Mama Elena (Elena de la Garza) appears in Like Water for Chocolate. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: January – “Christmas Rolls.”
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...the kitchen floor. Unable to nurse and busy managing her ranch after her husband died, Mama Elena (Tita’s mother) let Nacha, the childless cook, feed and care for Tita. The narrator explains... (full context)
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...makes a dance out of it, but Rosaura accidentally burns her hands on the griddle. Mama Elena spanks Tita badly, and thereafter her sisters aren’t allowed to play with her in the... (full context)
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...she tells her mother that a young man, Pedro, wants to come speak with her. Mama Elena assumes he wants to ask for Tita’s hand in marriage, and she refuses to see... (full context)
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Pedro surprises Tita and Mama Elena by showing up at their ranch with his father, Don Pascual. He asks Mama Elena... (full context)
Chapter 2: February – “Chabela Wedding Cake.”
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...the testicles she had to cut off the roosters they ordered to serve as capons. Mama Elena put Tita in charge of the castrations, and all other wedding preparations, as punishment for... (full context)
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...night before the wedding, Nacha and Tita are finishing the last of the cakes. After Mama Elena goes to bed, Nacha can sense that Tita is in a terrible state. She embraces... (full context)
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...sex without seeing each other naked. Imports were hard to get during the war, but Mama Elena had bought the sheets from a smuggler. Tita is horrified by the sheets’ whiteness, and... (full context)
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...each time wishing the next wedding would be hers. She remembers her own fiancé, who Mama Elena ’s mother had forced away. Nacha spends all night crying, and the next day she... (full context)
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...home, she finds Nacha dead in her bed, clutching a photo of her old fiancé. Mama Elena blames Tita for poisoning the cake to ruin Rosaura’s wedding, and beats her so badly... (full context)
Chapter 3: March – “Quail in Rose Petal Sauce”
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...finds some refuge, where “flavors, smells, textures and the effects they could have were beyond Mama Elena ’s iron command.” A year after the wedding, Pedro brings Tita roses. Rosaura, pregnant with... (full context)
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...eat the quail in rose petals, Pedro compliments the “exquisite” taste of Tita’s food, despite Mama Elena ’s disapproval. Rosaura, stricken with morning sickness, barely eats. Gertrudis, however, feels very hot, affected... (full context)
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...rose-scented cloud emanating from her body. When she tries to use the outside shower that Mama Elena has rigged up, her body is so hot that the water evaporates in the air... (full context)
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...Pedro thinks of asking Tita to run away with him. He begins to, but then Mama Elena calls them both inside. (full context)
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Tita makes up a story, telling Mama Elena that federal troops (whom Tita hates) came and kidnapped Gertrudis. Mama Elena is overcome with... (full context)
Chapter 4: April - “Turkey Mole with Almonds and Sesame Seeds”
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...them. Now, however, Tita’s mind is fully occupied with her thoughts of Pedro. Unaware that Mama Elena had forbidden Pedro from complimenting her cooking, Tita had begun to worry that he’d stopped... (full context)
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...Gertrudis’ clothes and things to be sent to her through Nicolas, the ranch manager, without Mama Elena ’s knowledge. Tita packs the objects that carry their memories together, but sadly laments that... (full context)
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Rosaura goes into labor, and Pedro goes to get Dr. Brown. Mama Elena and Chencha travel to get supplies they will need for the baby, which they haven’t... (full context)
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...eating Tita’s turkey molé, despite the impending threat of famine and death from the war. Mama Elena catches Pedro and Tita’s fiery glances, and determines to interfere. Tita hears Mama Elena tell... (full context)
Chapter 5: May – “Northern Style Chorizo”
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Chencha is making pork sausage, or chorizo, while trying to fill a bath for Mama Elena . She covers the fact that Tita isn’t helping, as Tita has been deeply depressed... (full context)
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When the rebels arrive, Mama Elena stands by her ranch hands, Rosalio and Guadalupe, as her ranch manager Nicolas is in... (full context)
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When she emerges, Tita is surprised to find Mama Elena alive. Though she prayed she would survive, Tita had “unconsciously” wished that she would find... (full context)
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Returning to the night of the chorizos, Tita is called to bathe Mama Elena , as she is every week. Unable to concentrate, she heats the water too much... (full context)
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...She returns his kisses and caresses, which quickly become sexual. They stop when they hear Mama Elena call for Tita. The next day, Mama Elena speeds up her plans for Pedro, Rosaura,... (full context)
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Mama Elena enters the room with Chencha, who has just returned from San Antonio. Chencha tearfully tells... (full context)
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...Tita naked, vacantly staring into space, trying to feed worms to her dead baby pigeon. Mama Elena calls Dr. Brown to take Tita to an insane asylum. He arrives and takes Tita... (full context)
Chapter 6: June – “A Recipe for Making Matches”
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...his laboratory, watching as he makes matches from wood strips and phosphorous. Instead of obeying Mama Elena , John Brown brought Tita to live with him and his small child, Alex. John... (full context)
Chapter 7: July – “Ox-Tail Soup”
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...in a brothel because he alone couldn’t “quench the fire” inside her. Chencha explains that Mama Elena has forbidden any mention of Tita’s name, and Tita asks Chencha to relay to Mama... (full context)
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...Meanwhile on her journey home, Chencha tries to think of a lie to explain to Mama Elena why she visited Tita, so she can pass along Tita’s message without incurring her anger.... (full context)
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...arrives home, a group of bandits attack the ranch. They violently rape Chencha and when Mama Elena tries to stop them, they knock her unconscious. Mama Elena becomes paralyzed from the waist... (full context)
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...no man will marry her now. Tita tries to comfort her, but she knows that Mama Elena ’s cruelty is worsening Chencha’s condition. To give Chencha a new start, Tita lets Chencha... (full context)
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While dressing Mama Elena for her wake, Tita feels no sadness, having never known her mother beyond her “outer... (full context)
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At Mama Elena ’s funeral, Tita finally cries, “not for the castrating mother who had repressed Tita her... (full context)
Chapter 8: August – “Champandongo”
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...and pans, stewing in her mixed emotions. In the storage room that used to be Mama Elena ’s bathing room, she feels Pedro sneak up on her. Locking the door, he pushes... (full context)
Chapter 9: September – “Chocolate and Three Kings’ Day Bread”
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...sexual excess,” but has taken especially little interest in Rosaura since the night she “saw Mama Elena ’s ghost.” Tita is overcome with guilt seeing her sister’s desperate situation. Her guilt is... (full context)
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As she prepares the hot chocolate and bread, Tita feels a cold wind, and Mama Elena ’s ghost appears before her. She says that Tita has “forgotten all morality, respect and... (full context)
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...wishes as a child. She makes the wish that she had never met Pedro, that Mama Elena ’s ghost would go away, and that Gertrudis would come back to help her. Tita... (full context)
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...a general. She reunited with Juan, and they married. Gertrudis is sad to hear of Mama Elena ’s death, as she was eager for her mother to see her success. Later Juan... (full context)
Chapter 10: October – “Cream Fritters”
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...accompanied by Juan on the guitar. Tita panics, worried Rosaura will hear. The ghost of Mama Elena appears, shaming Tita and telling her to run away. Tita demands that she leave her... (full context)
Chapter 12: December: “Chiles in Walnut Sauce.”
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...a suit and top hat. Their oldest son has become handsome, with dark skin and Mama Elena ’s blue eyes. Rosalio and Nicolas wear traditional clothing as they collect the wedding invitations... (full context)