Dreaming in Cuban is a novel by Cristina Garcia, which narrates a story of two people, their children also their grandchildren. The two main characters are Celia Del Pino and Jorge Del Pino. The two give birth to three children among them two daughters and one son. The story develops from the parents to the children and even to their grandchildren and the different paths they take in their lives. This essay will discuss aspects of this book and the main themes of the book.
Cristina Garcia was born in July 1958 in Havana to a Guatemalan father and a Cuban mother. Her most life was spent in the United States after her family flees from Cuba especially after Fidel Castro came into power. She studied political science at the Barnard College, but she says that a course in English at the college inspired her to write. (Hartford Public Library Readers Services Resources 8) Garcia first worked in a marketing position at Procter and Gamble before she moved to become a journalist with Time magazine. It was while she was a journalist that she decided to venture into fiction writing. Her first novel was Dreaming in Cuban. Other novels that she has written include the Monkey Hunting, a Handbook to Luck and the Aguero Sisters.
This book has various themes among them is the theme of family relationships. The book tries to portray the different relationships that exist between the family members. There is the relationship between man and wife; there is also that relationship between parents and children. There is also the relationship between the children, additionally the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. In these relationships, some seem to work well while others the distance between them strains the relationships or values or even political issues.
The relationship between Celia and Jorge is strained from the very beginning. Celia had previously taken a lover who was a Spaniard, who later left her. Jorge then came and offered to marry her. But Jorge mistreats Celia because he is not pleased with what Celia had done before he also feels that Celia does not love him the way she loved her lover (Cristina 36). This is demonstrated by the way, Jorge marries her then leaves, leaving her behind to be mistreated by his mother and sister. The worst part is that Celia is pregnant, and the husband is not close to take care of her. Their relationship is also strained by their differences in political issues. Celia supports the revolution but the husband is in favor of the American government.
The relationship between the parents and children is also strained. Celia lacks a close relationship with her first-born daughter, because after she gives birth to her she becomes mentally ill and has to be hospitalized, thus denying her the chance to get close to Lourdes. Jorge though is close to Lourdes because he comes in to care for her when Celia is gone. The second daughter Felicia too is closer to her father than the mother. Celia also gives birth to a son Javier, who becomes closer to her than his father; Javier also shares the same political views as her mother.
The relationship between the children seems to be nonexistent. This is mainly because of their age differences perhaps. Lourdes attends university and marries to a man from a wealthy family. Felicia becomes closer to a daughter of a priest, while Javier goes to Czechoslovakia to study. There is the distance created between the children thus enabling them not to have close relations. The parents do not also encourage the children to have close relations; they have somehow contributed to the lack of relations between the children. Lourdes and Felicia also lack to develop a close relationship with their children. Lourdes struggles with her daughter pillar, who does not like the mother. For Felicia, all her children seem to have no relationship with her. Although Ivanito is close to Felicia, Felicia abandons him after she attempts to kill him and her. Javier separates from his child after his wife leaves him and goes with the child.
The family relationships have some hope in the third generation. Pilar develops a close relationship to Celia, where she paints her repeatedly and is willing to go after Ivanito, when he flees from Cuba for the sake of the grandmother. The family regains some hope of amending family relationship in this third generation because Pilar gets close to Ivanito, and she is willing to lie for him to the grandmother and protect him.
The role of men in this novel seems to be only that of siring children. Men in this book are portrayed as weak and not useful to their families. Jorge is not strong enough to endure his life in Cuba, he would rather seek refuge in America, and he openly supports the American government (Cristina 44). Rufino the husband to Lourdes refuses to work hard when they move to America, and he prefers to pursue his inventions that never succeed. The husbands to Felicia all seem weak, and the fact that she moves from one man to another show how this book portrays men as weak, to an extent of women killing the men. The men are also weak to fight illness because as soon as they fall sick they fade away. Unlike the women (Herrera 75) who seem to remain strong and recover from even mental illness.
There is also the aspect of belief and magic. Celia believes that her dead husband comes in the form of a spirit to bid her farewell. Lourdes also believes that her father's spirit visits her; she also develops a craving for food and sex during this time of her father's death. Felicia believes that when she gets close to Santeria she will reconcile with her father and be able to ask for forgiveness. Magic is also presented where Pilar purchases paraphernalia in a shop, and performs a ritual that tells her that she and her mother must return to Cuba. But this was caused by the strong desire that Pilar had to return to Cuba, she had even attempted to go to Cuba but she failed.
Politics is the other aspect of the novel although not openly portrayed as the main theme, it is the problem behind the family's relationship, and it clearly plays a crucial role in this book. It is Celia's strong political support of the Cuban revolution that separates her from her husband and daughter Lourdes. She is so strong about politics that she manages to become a local judge. It is also political issues that force the family members to seek exile in America. The revolutionist soldiers make Lourdes' family, to flee to America and leave behind their wealth for the revolution. This makes Lourdes to be patriotic to the US and this strains her relationship with her daughter Pilar who loves Cuba. Javier shares his political believes and support with Celia and these results to the two being close.
Illness and disease is another looming aspect in this book. It starts with mental illness, which affects both Celia and Felicia, although they are able to overcome the illness. Felicia though seems to be falling back to the mental illness from time to time. The father also falls ill, and goes to America to seek treatment but his condition deteriorates and he dies. Illness seems to bring the family closer. After the father dies from illness Felicia and Lourdes, try to reconcile with the father. After Felicia falls ill Celia takes up her children to look after them, therefore, bringing them closer to her to develop relations. It is after Celia falls ill that Lourdes and Pilar also return to Cuba to look after her, and it is during this time that Pilar develops a fondness for her grandmother.
To conclude the book revolves around the three generations and the family relationship that surround them. It is also set in a time of political struggle, and there is obvious disintegration of people due to their political views. It also shows that women remain constantly strong as compared to men who fade away easily. It also includes beliefs and rituals or magic that the characters believe. Lastly it shows how illness is predominant during this period especially that of the mind.