Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Dreaming in Cuban | Part 2, Chapter 13 : Imagining Winter (God's Will) | Summary

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Summary

Herminia Delgado narrates in the first person from the year 1980. When she met her best friend, Felicia Villaverde, at age six, Felicia asked Herminia to save her and Herminia agreed. Their friendship has been marked by loyalty and devotion. Herminia, who is black, insists that Felicia is truly blind to race. Herminia, whose father is a high priest in Santeria, states that life has improved for blacks since the revolution.

In 1978 Felicia returned after months of absence and confessed she had pushed a third husband out of a roller coaster to his death by electrocution below. Felicia resumed working at the beauty parlor but devoted herself to Santeria. She is initiated by La Madrina and becomes a Santeria priestess after a secret 16-day ceremony that culminates with Felicia experiencing a spirit possession. Seeing her friend at her coronation, Herminia knows Felicia has found inner peace. After her initiation Felicia returns to the house on Palmas Street and continues to practice the novice rituals devotedly, though her family is no longer there. Herminia repeatedly dreams of meeting Felicia as a child and agreeing to save her. Felicia begins to sicken and decline, despite the ministrations of her Santeria community. When La Madrina "thr[ows] the shells," the omens always indicate death. La Madrina concedes that this must be the "will of the gods." Celia del Pino returns to the house on Palmas Street. She throws out the Santerians and crushes Felicia's sacred shells under her feet. Then she holds Felicia in her arms while Felicia dies. The chapter ends with Ivanito, who finds an anonymous package for him after Felicia's funeral. A radio is inside.

Analysis

In this chapter, Herminia, a black woman, offers her view on race relations in Cuba. As a descendent of Africans brought to the island as slaves, Herminia has a different perspective on history and power than the other characters, who are lighter skinned and even blue eyed, like Jorge del Pino. For Herminia, Felicia's colorblindness is an exceptional quality, which suggests that racial prejudice and inequality are significant factors in her life as a black woman. Indeed, the other characters have not mentioned the issue of race relations. This lines up with Herminia's assertion that the dominant culture has agreed to silence the "disagreeable" issue of racism in their country.

Notably, Herminia expresses sentiments similar to those of Pilar Puente. Both are aware that history is an intentionally constructed, biased tool created by those in power. She cites the Little War of 1912, when more than two thousand black Cubans were massacred under presidential orders. The victims were largely members of the new Independent Party of Color, which threatened to increase the political power of blacks in Cuba. Since this is largely omitted from history books, Herminia distrusts anything she doesn't see with her own eyes.

Shells figure heavily in this chapter, which describes the end of Felicia's life. Since Chapter 1, Felicia has been associated with shells through the tidal wave of 1944. The shell imagery also recurs in the dreams that various characters have of this tidal wave and the moments prior to it, when the water receded and the beach revealed itself as full of shells. This suggests the ominous power of shells, since a tidal wave followed immediately. However, for Felicia as a young girl, these ominous shells were a magical experience. She wandered, enchanted, over the beach, collecting them. Celia's view of shells as bad luck reappears here when she crushes the sacred shells of Felicia's spiritual practice. There is ambiguity here, given that the spiritual practice gives Felicia perhaps the only peace in her life. But the shells had predicted only death for Felicia, and after the shells are crushed, Felicia quickly dies.

This chapter also illustrates the complex relationship between the notions of God's will—the chapter's title—and free will. Felicia is destined to die, the shells claim, because it "is God's will." Indeed, at this point, Felicia's illness is already too advanced for anything to be done. Felicia's free will could have saved her a long time ago, but there is nothing she, or anyone, can do now.

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