Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Dreaming in Cuban | Part 2, Chapter 14 : Imagining Winter (Daughters of Changó) | Summary

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Summary

The third-person narration follows the perspective of Lourdes Puente in the fall of 1979. Her deceased father, Jorge del Pino, with whom she has been communicating since his death, tells her that soon he will not be able to communicate with her anymore. He explains that his move to New York was motivated by his need to receive treatment for his cancer but also to escape the pain he felt at his wife's devotion to the Cuban Revolution. He loved Celia del Pino and thinks she also loved him.

A month later Jorge speaks to Lourdes for the last time, telling her that her mother really loves her. Jorge explains that after his marriage to Celia, her continued obsession with her absent Spanish lover made him want to punish her. He put her in an asylum and took Lourdes, then just an infant, from her mother. Lourdes's sister, Felicia, has died in sadness, Jorge says. He always knew that Lourdes was raped by a soldier, but Celia never did. He tells Lourdes she must return to Cuba and explain these things to Celia.

Pilar Puente begins narrating in the first person in 1980. She goes to a botanica in the city, a shop that sells herbs and spiritual implements. The shopkeeper calls her a daughter of the Santeria deity Changó and says she must finish what she started. He prescribes herbal baths for nine nights; afterward, Pilar will know what to do. On her way home, she is sexually assaulted in a park by three boys. Pilar recalls the story of Changó and the lizard, which explains why lightning strikes trees. In the following days, Pilar begins experiencing delusional symptoms. After completing the course of nine baths, she tells her mother they're going to Cuba.

Analysis

Jorge explains that the same knowledge and experience are available to the dead and the living, but that the living are usually too busy and distracted to realize this. This suggests that the access to the spirit world and the "magical" powers of visions and hidden knowledge are humanity's inheritance and can arise whenever a person experiences events that are significant enough to break the trance of everyday life. It reaffirms the suggestion made throughout the book that powers can arise through sexual trauma and other types of violence, which have the power to snap one out of the mundane trance of ordinary reality. The intrusion of Jorge's spirit into the living world of his daughter, Lourdes, has been only to give her the courage to do what she should have done all along: to affect the healing that a return to Cuba would bring.

The appearance of Pilar's cognitive delusions following her experience of sexual assault mirrors the experience of other female characters after their own traumatic sexual experiences. Pilar is, like Felicia and the other women in the family, a "daughter of Changó," that capricious Santeria god of fire. Fire can be controlled for good, as in cooking, or for ill, as when Felicia attempts to burn her husband. However, fire is mostly out of human control, having a life of its own. The del Pino women, like humanity itself, live largely at the mercy of or in concert with forces much more powerful than their own will—like fire. This belonging is not something that can be erased by immigration, distance, or the rewriting or erasure of history, because it is a permanent part of her, being both her roots and her destiny.

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