Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Course Hero. "Dreaming in Cuban Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 June 2020. Web. 6 Aug. 2020. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dreaming-in-Cuban/>.

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Course Hero. "Dreaming in Cuban Study Guide." June 27, 2020. Accessed August 6, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dreaming-in-Cuban/.

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Course Hero, "Dreaming in Cuban Study Guide," June 27, 2020, accessed August 6, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dreaming-in-Cuban/.

Dreaming in Cuban | Part 2, Chapter 9 : Imagining Winter (Enough Attitude) | Summary

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Summary

A third-person narrator follows the perspective of Lourdes Puente in 1975. She has become an auxiliary policewoman in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Lourdes thinks African Americans and Puerto Ricans are responsible for bringing delinquency to the neighborhood. As she patrols one night, Lourdes reflects on the lack of understanding between her and her husband, as well as between her and her daughter, Pilar Puente. The only person who understands Lourdes is her deceased father, who continues to speak to her and encourages her police work. Seeing a figure jump into the frigid river, Lourdes is seized by panic and jumps in after him. The jumper, who turns out to be the son of the Puerto Rican woman Lourdes had fired from her bakery, dies, while Lourdes survives.

Pilar begins first-person narration in the summer of 1976. At 17, she is heavily into the punk scene and still at odds with her mother. She attends a Lou Reed concert with her boyfriend, and Reed's statement that he "has enough attitude to kill every person in New Jersey" resonates with her. Though Cuba has receded from her mind, she still resents the political circumstances that made her family leave and is overtaken by occasional rushes of longing. No one will explain to her the things she wants to know: "why Mom hardly speaks to Abuela or why she still keeps her riding crops from Cuba." Her father seems to live only in his memories of Cuba.

Pilar reluctantly agrees to her mother's request that she paint a patriotic American painting for the second bakery that Lourdes is opening. She stipulates that Lourdes cannot see the work until it is unveiled at the grand opening, which coincides with the U.S. Bicentennial on July 4. Pilar paints a punk-style Statue of Liberty with a safety pin through Liberty's nose and the punk slogan "I am a mess." At the unveiling, a man in the audience insults the painting and charges at it with a knife. Lourdes intercepts the man, striking him with her handbag, and Pilar feels real love for her mother.

Analysis

Pilar's defiance and Lourdes's frustrated aggression intersect when Lourdes bodily defends Pilar's painting at her bakery opening. At that moment, Pilar sees the commonality she shares with her mother and begins to love her. This moment of connection reflects the chapter's title, "Enough Attitude," which comes from a statement made by Brooklyn native and pioneering rock-and-roll musician Lou Reed (1942–2013) during a show that Pilar Puente attends. Reed, who is one of Pilar's punk heroes, states that he has "enough attitude to kill every person in New Jersey." Pilar channels her attitude into art and music. She is lucky to have a sympathetic artistic community in the flourishing punk scene in 1970s New York, which embraced questioning authority, anarchy, and defiance.

Her mother, Lourdes, who also is full of attitude, channels her sense of impotence and frustration into her work as a community policewoman. The boy that Lourdes cannot save when he jumps into the river turns out to be a Puerto Rican youth from the neighborhood, the son of a woman Lourdes had fired from her bakery for stealing 50 cents. This tragic moment highlights the unequal experience of immigrants in New York, a city symbolized by the Statue of Liberty and its message that the American Dream of prosperity is open to everyone. It also undermines Lourdes's prejudice against Puerto Ricans and other ethnic groups—people she had disdained as immoral troublemakers. She realizes the despair generated by displacement and poverty. Earlier, Lourdes had unfavorably compared this boy to her imagined ideal of the son she miscarried in Cuba. Yet it is Lourdes who witnesses this boy's suicide and tries to save him.

All the events of this chapter, with their aggression, their messiness, and their underlying sense of desperation and tragedy, reflect back to the punk slogan Pilar Puente paints on her Statue of Liberty painting: "I am a mess." People of all ethnicities and immigrants of all stripes, more or less recent, struggle to find peace and prosperity in Brooklyn, where the Puentes live. The Statue of Liberty stands as the symbol of America and its commitment to welcome all. Yet as this chapter shows, not all are welcome, and not all are equally welcome. It takes the boy's suicide for Lourdes to come to terms with her own messy beliefs and prejudices.

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