Dreaming In Cuban Summary

Cristina García

Dreaming In Cuban

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Dreaming In Cuban Summary

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Dreaming in Cuban is the debut novel by Cuban-American author Cristina Garcia, first published in 1992. It takes place in both Cuba and the United States, focusing on three generations of a single family. The novel’s focus is on the women of the family, beginning with matriarch Celia del Pino, before shifting to her daughters Lourdes and Felicia, and finally her granddaughter Pilar. Primarily written in the third person, it also shifts into first person and epistolary formats over the course of the sweeping narrative. Told in a nonlinear fashion and moving between places and times, it explores themes including family relationships, exile and diaspora, immigration and assimilation, and the way politics and memory can divide a family. It contains a deep focus on Cuban history and culture, and delves into the religious tradition of Santeria. Critically acclaimed as one of the best novels ever published about Cuban-American culture, it was released to overwhelming praise and strong sales, and was a nominee for the National Book Award.

Dreaming in Cuban begins with Celia Almeida as a young woman living in Havana. She meets and falls in love with a married Spaniard named Gustavo, but he leaves to return to Spain. Losing her lover, she loses the will to live and begins wasting away. While she’s housebound, Jorge del Pino courts her and convinces her to marry him. However, he turns out to be a cruel husband, punishing her for her past with Jorge and abandoning her to the mercies of his sadistic mother and sister while he travels. She becomes pregnant, and the abuse only increases. By the time she gives birth to Lourdes, she’s confined to a mental institution and Jorge takes custody of Lourdes. When she’s released, her daughter is close to her father but has no connection to Celia. A few years later, Felicia is born, followed by a son named Javier eight years later. Celia and Jorge also clash over politics, with Celia supporting Cuban revolution and Jorge preferring the pro-American government.

Over the years, the three kids grow up and take different paths. Lourdes goes to university and falls in love with Rufino Puente, the son of a wealthy ranch family. She gives birth to her daughter, Pilar, as the Cuban revolution takes place. Two years later, she miscarries her second child in a horse-riding accident, and returns home to find Rufino being assaulted by soldiers. More soldiers come later, seize the family home for the revolutionary government, and rape Lourdes. The family flees to Miami, but Lourdes finds it hard to adjust. The family later moves to New York, with Rufino trying to become an inventor and Lourdes supporting the family as a baker. She and Pilar have a tense relationship, with Pilar becoming an Americanized teenage punk artist and being closer to her father. Felicia, meanwhile, befriends the daughter of a Santeria high priest and becomes deeply involved in the religion. She drops out of school and marries Hugo Villaverde, who is unreliable and abusive. She gives birth to twin daughters, Luz and Milagro, alone. When Hugo gets Felicia pregnant again he also gives her syphilis. During her second pregnancy, it becomes clear that Felicia has inherited her mother’s mental instability. She attempts to kill Hugo, who flees. She later gives birth to her son, Ivanito, who is much closer to his mother than the twins are.

Celia’s youngest child, Javier, is a talented scientist and a supporter of the Revolution. He does not get along with his father and leaves for Czechoslovakia, where he becomes a professor of biochemistry, marries, and has a daughter named Irinita. Jorge later develops cancer, and travels to New York for treatment. Lourdes is deeply affected by her father’s illness, expressed as constant cravings for food and sex. When Jorge dies, Celia sees his spirit but she can’t understand him. Felicia is comforted by Santeria, but her mental state declines. Celia discovers that her daughter is mentally ill and takes custody of her twin daughters, but Ivanito refuses to leave his mother. Felicia’s mental state deteriorates, and she attempts to poison herself and Ivanito. Ivanito is taken away from his mother and sent to boarding school, while Felicia is sent into the military as punishment. Celia has become a strong supporter of the revolution, serving on a local revolutionary court.

In New York, Pilar discovers her father is having an affair. She tries to run away to Cuba, but is caught and returned home. Lourdes begins working as an auxiliary policewoman and communicates regularly with her father’s spirit. Her business becomes successful and she opens a second bakery, asking Pilar to paint a mural for the opening. The mural, a punk Statue of Liberty, causes controversy, but Lourdes defends her daughter. In Cuba, Felicia’s new husband Ernesto dies in a fire for which Felicia blames Castro;she becomes paranoid. She loses months of memories and wakes up married to a man named Otto. Otto later dies in an amusement park accident, and Felicia believes she may have killed him. Javier returns home to his mother, having been deserted by his wife, who took their daughter. He starts wasting away, just as his mother did, and one day, he vanishes. Felicia becomes a Santeria priestess, until she too becomes sick and dies. Lourdes hears from Jorge’s spirit, who asks her and Pilar to go to Cuba to make amends for him. Pilar, who survived an attack in the park by a gang of boys, becomes involved in Santeria herself. After Felicia’s funeral, Celia tries to drown herself, but is saved and cared for by Lourdes and Pilar. Lourdes becomes close to her nephew Ivanito, while Pilar learns about the history of Cuba from her grandmother. Lourdes is unable to forgive her mother, and helps Ivanito flee Cuba at the Peruvian embassy. When Lourdes and Pilar leave Cuba, Celia walks into the ocean for the final time.

Cristina Garcia is a Cuban-American journalist and novelist. A long-time correspondent and bureau chief for Time Magazine, she has also published six novels, all of which have been critically acclaimed. She has served as editor on several collections of Cuban and Chicano literature. She has been employed as a Professor of Creative Writing at several prominent universities around the American southwest.