sample
Haven't found the Essay You Want?
GET YOUR CUSTOM ESSAY SAMPLE
For Only $12.90/page

Dreaming in Cuban Essay

“All summer she has lived in her memories . . .. Her past, she fears, is eclipsing her present”. In Celia’s life, it always has. Celia is caught in the folds of time. Her central memory is that of Gustavo Sierra de Armas, the married Spaniard with whom Celia, when she was a very young department store clerk in Havana, had an intense love affair that was truncated by his unannounced departure. For twenty-five years, until the triumph of the revolution, Celia writes to Gustavo on the eleventh day of each month, keeping the un-mailed letters in a satin lined box.

“I watch the sun rise, burning its collection of memories”, she writes to Gustavo and later, “Memory is a skilled seducer” who hover around the mid-century of life recall the rumors of multiple seductions by the dictator at the presidential palace. For Celia, these rumors become present reality, with Celia as one of the seduced. He does not age, nor does she. In Celia’s reveries, memory is most often sensualized and is always infused and injected with imagination. Memory is scripted, the script becoming more real than fact.

As Celia’s daughter Felicia will tell her son Ivanito, “Imagination, like memory, can transform lies to truths . . . “. The matriarch of the novel’s dreamers, Celia seems engaged in an eternal wait that is never concluded, never satisfied. Her life, like her time, is arrested, moving then in long, elliptical swirls like patterns drawn on the sand by her beloved sea, whose waters envelop her again and again at critical junctures, cleansing and caressing her, then depositing her once again on shore, amid the folds of time.

Three generations of Cuban women dominate this marvelously told story of a family divided by politics and the Castro revolution in Cuba. Celia del Pino is the effective head of the family. She is a loyal follower of Castro who watches the beaches near her small home to protect from a surprise attack from the assumed enemies of the regime. Her daughter Felicia also remains in Cuba, but has no interest in politics and has recurring bouts of insanity but finally dies when she succumbs to a fanatical version of Cuban Santeria religion.

Her sister Lourdes immigrates to the United States and exalts in her own version of the American dream becoming a successful owner of a small bakery chain. Lourdes is as bitterly anti-Castro as her mother is pro. Finally we have Pilar, daughter of Lourdes and born the very year that Castro took power. Raised in Brooklyn, but with strong feelings of her Cuban roots, Pillar is a punk artist and later musician. She is caught with a foot in both words, nostalgic for Cuba and her grandmother, but fully rooted in the cultural scene of New York City.

There are other members of the del Pino family who play lesser roles and Celia’s late husband, Jorge, plays the most curious role, a bit of magic realism as he spends several years in conversation with Lourdes after he has died. Only gradually does he fade away leaving Lourdes in a position where she can finally pay a visit to her aging and dying mother in Cuba. Dreaming in Cuban is told in segments related by numerous narrative consciousnesses, usually in the third person, from time planes that move backward and forward but follow a general linear chronological direction.

What we learn of Lourdes comes primarily from the third-person narrative segments devoted to her and, secondarily, from the reflections of her daughter and her mother in the sequences narrated by or devoted to them. Lourdes has passed into exile, like so many of her contemporaries in 1961, with her husband Rufino Puente and their two-year-old daughter, Pilar. Lourdes has tried to force roots into the northern soil of Brooklyn, and genuinely believes that she has done so.

In fact, when they leave Miami in a secondhand Chevy, unable to bear “the endless brooding over their wealth, the competition for dishwasher jobs” of Rufino’s family, which has been ostentatiously prominent in Havana society, it is Lourdes who insists that they move ever northward, in search of the cold. New York City, finally, is cold enough. As enterprising and dynamic as Maria de los Angeles “Mina” Lopez in Roberto Fernandez’s much praised 1988 novel Raining Backwards, Lourdes has founded the Yankee Doodle Bakery, and in time opens a second one. A fighter and a survivor, she has prospered.

Lourdes takes pride in her love of order, her practicality. A take charge person who sees right and wrong in uncomplicatedly absolute terms, Lourdes becomes a volunteer auxiliary policewoman on a neighborhood beat, slapping her nightstick over and over into her palm before she goes out on patrol. Always estranged from her distant mother, Celia, who has been sent away to Havana by her own mother, never to see her again, Lourdes feels her parental affinity is with her father, Jorge del Pino, who railed over the years in Cuba at what he termed tropical squalor and who comes to New York to die of cancer.

In Cristina Garcia’s 1992 novel Dreaming in Cuban, Cuba is a pivotal presence. The work examines, through a wealth of female and male characters, with emphasis upon the matrilineal chain, the intense experience of Cuban ness. The island country of Cuba is portrayed from within and without, and the distance from it is measured through the fictive evocation of exile, exile once removed, and inner exile. Different views of Cuba both inspire and result from divergent exiles.

I have chosen to approach the topic of Cuba as text and context in the novel through an analysis of three female characters: Lourdes del Pino Puente, a Cuban exile living in Brooklyn; her daughter Pilar, age 13 when the novel opens; and Lourdes’s mother, Celia del Pino, who has by choice indee insistence remained behind in Cuba, in her seaside home. In Cuba, Lourdes’ sister Felicia feels this unleapable distance even from her adored son Ivanito, with whom she has a powerful spiritual bond. “What is he saying? ” his mother wonders about him. “Each word is a code she must decipher, a foreign language, a streak of gunshot”.

Even with her boy, to whom she is more closely bound than to any other being save her mother, Felicia is unwillingly but undeniably alone. Between Ivanito and his older twin sisters–stiff, unbending adherents to the regime–there is also estrangement based on language as vital posture, the sum and expression of one’s stance in the world she inhabits. “He will never speak his sisters’ language, account for his movements like a cow with a dull bell”. The novel’s title, Dreaming in Cuban, suggests an idiom of belonging, a collective, ever imperfect antidote to isolation and estrangement.

What Celia terms the “morphology of survival” must always take into account the grammar of this culture specific language, Cuban. Lourdes believes herself impervious to any such considerations. Yet the sight of a lone elm set in concrete causes her to wonder if this individual is Dutch elm disease set the last of the dying species. Is it a metaphor for her own exile and separation? There are other signs as well. The New York City rivers along which Lourdes walks and patrols flow gray, absorbing the light, usually unable to return it as reflection, their color and coldness evocative of metal.

“Breezes from the sluggish river seem to inscribe [Lourdes’] skin with metal tips”. Gray is also the color of ash. Felicia’s third husband, falling onto the wires of a carnival ride in Cuba, turns to ash and blows northward, where he had wanted to go. For Lourdes’s mother, gray is also the color of memory: “Memory cannot be confined . . .. It’s slate gray, the color of undeveloped film”. That memory has been free to follow Lourdes northward, and that she would permit it to do so is a thought she would surely deny.

In her daughter Pilar’s memories, her mother’s toucans and cockatoos, released when the revolutionaries took over the Puente hacienda, also flew north in confusion–a confusion, which Lourdes emphatically rejects; she abhors all ambiguity. Yet the northern clime has inspired in her inordinate hungers. The first is an erotic appetite for Rufino, which leads her husband to install a bell in his workshop so as to be always available to her and which finally leaves him spent and weary, and the second is a concomitant craving for pecan sticky buns, which brings about a weight gain of 118 pounds.

In Rufino, Lourdes is reaching for something beyond him, something he cannot give her; she may well seek in this physical union a reintegration she cannot attain, a reconnection with her remembered life left behind, with the Cuba she knew. The sticky buns, with their impossible forbidden sweetness, may be the closest Lourdes can come in exile to the sensorial bombardment, richly evoked in the pages of Dreaming in Cuban, of her island home. In Cuba, Lourdes’ sister Felicia feels this unleapable distance even from her adored son Ivanito, with whom she has a powerful spiritual bond.

“What is he saying? ” his mother wonders about him. “Each word is a code she must decipher, a foreign language, a streak of gunshot”. Even with her boy, to whom she is more closely bound than to any other being save her mother, Felicia is unwillingly but undeniably alone. Between Ivanito and his older twin sisters–stiff, unbending adherents to the regime–there is also estrangement based on language as vital posture, the sum and expression of one’s stance in the world she inhabits. “He will never speak his sisters’ language, account for his movements like a cow with a dull bell”.

The novel’s title, Dreaming in Cuban, suggests an idiom of belonging, a collective, ever imperfect antidote to isolation and estrangement. What Celia terms the “morphology of survival” must always take into account the grammar of this culture specific language, Cuban. Lourdes believes herself impervious to any such considerations. Yet the sight of a lone elm set in concrete causes her to wonder if this individual is Dutch elm disease set the last of the dying species. Is it a metaphor for her own exile and separation? There are other signs as well.

The New York City rivers along which Lourdes walks and patrols flow gray, absorbing the light, usually unable to return it as reflection, their color and coldness evocative of metal. “Breezes from the sluggish river seem to inscribe [Lourdes’] skin with metal tips”. Gray is also the color of ash. Felicia’s third husband, falling onto the wires of a carnival ride in Cuba, turns to ash and blows northward, where he had wanted to go. For Lourdes’s mother, gray is also the color of memory: “Memory cannot be confined . . .. It’s slate gray, the color of undeveloped film”.

That memory has been free to follow Lourdes northward, and that she would permit it to do so is a thought she would surely deny. In her daughter This is Cristina Garcia’s first novel. She was born in Havana, Cuba in 1958 but grew up in New York City. She attended Barnard College and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. She has been a correspondent for Time magazine and lives in Los Angeles with her husband Scott Brown. Works Cited 1. DREAMING IN CUBAN, By Cristina Garcia, 245 pages New York: Ballantine Books, 1992. ISBN # 0-345-38143-2


Essay Topics:


Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email. Please, specify your valid email address

We can't stand spam as much as you do No, thanks. I prefer suffering on my own