Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Dreaming in Cuban | Part 1, Chapter 4 : Ordinary Seductions (Celia's Letters: 1935–1940) | Summary



This chapter presents a series of unsent letters written by Celia del Pino to her Spanish lover, Gustavo Sierra de Armas. They begin in March 1935, shortly after Gustavo returned to Spain and just prior to Celia's marriage to Jorge del Pino. A letter in August 1936, shortly before the birth of Lourdes, suggests Celia's deteriorating mental condition. The next letters document her time in the asylum, where Jorge has put her after Lourdes's birth. In the asylum, Celia befriended a woman named Felicia Guiterrez who had burned her husband to death and was herself later found burned to death in the asylum. Celia names her second daughter Felicia (Felicia Villaverde) after this friend and claims she'll "be a good mother this time." In a September 1940 letter, Celia documents her realization that she actually loved her husband, Jorge, when he was hospitalized after a severe collision with a milk truck.


This is the first of five chapters in the novel that consist entirely of Celia's unsent letters to Gustavo. As such, the letters form a significant part of the novel. As they recount current events in her life, they stand as incontestable evidence of Celia's experience because they tell her story in a manner undistorted by memory.

In these letters, Celia documents in her own words the heartbreak that became psychosis. Her language becomes extremely poetic and symbolic in the letters written prior to and during her time in the asylum. The reason for Celia's psychosis is not explicitly given, but it may be surmised that it has something to do with the two important relationships she has with men, both of whom are absent: Gustavo, who returned to Spain, and Jorge, who stays away on business.

Celia's psychosis reflects and foreshadows the psychosis of her daughter Felicia. Felicia's destiny is also foreshadowed by the story of Felicia Guiterrez, for whom she was named. In the previous chapter, a santera prophesies that Celia will survive "the hard flames." Flames reappear here significantly in the story of Felicia Guiterrez, and the foreshadowing hints they will also figure significantly in the life of Felicia Villaverde.

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