Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Dreaming in Cuban | Part 1, Chapter 2 : Ordinary Seductions (Going South) | Summary

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Summary

This chapter's third-person narration follows the perspective of Lourdes Puente, the oldest daughter of Celia del Pino, in April 1972. Lourdes owns a bakery in Brooklyn, New York. When her father, Jorge del Pino, left their native Cuba to come to New York for cancer treatment, Lourdes developed an immense appetite for food and sex and became obese. As she is preparing the day's baked goods, she receives a call from Sister Federica, the nun who had been taking care of her ailing father. Sister Federica describes finding him in his hospital room emitting a blue glow: "a nimbus of holiness." Jorge then "passed through the window and headed south."

That night, Lourdes's daughter, Pilar Puente, a defiant painter of abstract works in her early teens, fails to return home from school. Lourdes and Pilar do not get along, but Pilar's disappearance makes Lourdes frantic. Pilar was born in Cuba 11 days after El Lider (Fidel Castro) took power. Lourdes walks southward all night, searching for traces of Pilar. "Everything, it seems, is going south," she feels, including her father, who is returning to their home in Cuba with its "sad memories."

The novel switches to Pilar, who begins narrating in the first person. After catching her father with another woman, she decides she is "fed up with everything around here" and will return to Cuba. There she will reunite with her beloved grandmother, who was devoted to the revolution. Pilar remembers leaving her and Cuba when she was two—in fact, she remembers everything that has happened to her. She buys a bus ticket for Miami, Florida.

On the bus ride, Pilar considers the arbitrariness of recorded history. "Who chooses what we should know or what's important?" she wonders. She hears her grandmother speaking to her often at night, encouraging Pilar and calling her back to Cuba. Pilar dreams she is being carried on a throne adorned with antlers toward the sea, under a sky filled with her grandmother's face.

Analysis

This chapter's title, "Going South," refers to the southward trail followed by three generations of the del Pino family. They are all pulled toward one another and ultimately toward Cuba. Jorge dies in a New York hospital and heads for Cuba as a glowing blue apparition. Searching for her daughter on foot in the city, Lourdes instinctively tends in a southward direction. At the same time, her father's infidelity prompts Pilar to throw in the towel and follow her long-seated urge to return to the Cuba of her childhood and to her grandmother.

However, in 1972, returning to Cuba from the United States was not a simple matter. Given the political circumstances of the day, it is certain that the deceased blue apparition of Jorge del Puente will have the easiest time getting to Cuba. In October 1962 the United States and Cuba were on the brink of going to nuclear war with each other. The so-called Cuban Missile Crisis was a 14-day standoff that took place after the administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy discovered that the communist Soviet Union, Cuba's ally and the United States's enemy, had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. War was avoided by skillful diplomacy, but afterward, President Kennedy banned travel from the United States to Cuba. The travel ban remained in place until 2016.

The first chapter followed the perspectives of mother and daughter Celia and Felicia, both in Cuba. This chapter follows the perspectives of another mother-daughter pair, Lourdes and Pilar, who have left Cuba and resettled in the United States. This structure of alternating settings and voices reinforces the novel's preoccupation with the twin motifs of rupture and connection within the del Pino family as well as the dual identities of Cuban and American.

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