Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Dreaming in Cuban | Part 2, Chapter 11 : Imagining Winter (Celia's Letters: 1950–1955) | Summary



This chapter presents a series of unsent letters written by Celia del Pino to Gustavo Sierra de Armas between February 1950 and June 1955. In February 1950, Celia recounts how on her deathbed, her mother-in-law accused Celia of stealing her husband, meaning her son, Jorge del Pino. In April 1951 Celia writes how Jorge's insistence that their five-year-old son, Javier, become an accountant is creating distance between the boy and his parents.

In March 1952 Celia complains that Fulgencio Batista, the dictator of Cuba who is backed by the United States, has "stole[n] the country from us just when it seemed that things could finally change." She consults Salvador, the father of Herminia, who is a Santeria priest. He tells her that because of the protection of the Santeria diety Changó, Batista will escape Cuba scot-free.

In March 1953 Celia writes of her estrangement from Lourdes. She travels to Havana and participates in a protest "for the release of the rebels who survived the attack on Moncada." A year later, Celia writes that she is afraid 15-year-old Felicia, who has dropped out of school, is selling her body. In October 1954 Celia writes of Javier's academic achievement, a "children's national science prize for a genetics experiment." The following June, Celia expresses her hope that there will be revolution and the people will oust Batista.


These letters document Celia's growing involvement with politics as revolutionary fervor begins rising throughout Cuba in the 1950s. She complains about Fulgencio Batista (1901–73), who presided over Cuba as a dictator from 1952 until 1959, when Fidel Castro (El Lider in the text) seized control. In 1952 Batista assumed power following a military coup. This dashed many hopes that democracy had at last come to Cuba. Batista instituted harsh repressive measures and embezzled the country's wealth, winning the presidency in the rigged elections of 1954 and 1958.

Fidel Castro (El Lider) began organizing his revolution following the 1952 coup. He planned an attack on the Moncada Barracks, which he hoped to seize and then remove Batista from power in a popular democratic revolution. The July 26, 1953, attack failed miserably; Castro escaped, but many of his fellow rebels were captured and endured the harsh imprisonment that Celia writes of protesting in her letter.

The santero disappoints Celia by telling her that the dictator Batista has the protection of Changó and so will evade justice. Changó is an orisha, a deity, from the Yoruba religion of West Africa. These beliefs were brought to Cuba by African slaves and combined with elements of Catholicism to produce the Santeria that figures heavily in the novel. Changó is connected to fire and lightning, two forces of destruction that often evade control, and so Changó's powers are delivered capriciously or according to whim. Though Changó is here connected with Batista, Changó is also connected with Felicia Villaverde, a character of copious spiritual and sexual power whose inability to control that power leads to great destruction. Here, during Felicia's youth, her mother notes this propensity in her daughter, writing that "Felicia is spirited and unpredictable, and this frightens me."

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