Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Dreaming in Cuban | Symbols


Pilar Puente's Paintings

In Chapter 9 Pilar Puente expresses how her paintings constitute her search for a means of communication that transcends the limits of ordinary language. "That's what I want to do with my paintings, find a unique language, obliterate the clichés," she states. The punk-style Statue of Liberty painting Pilar creates for the Yankee Doodle bakery, her mother Lourdes's business, is Pilar's attempt to subvert the worn-out cliché of the American Dream, which rings hollow for Pilar, who is a political refugee herself. Contrary to Pilar's expectations, the painting ends up being a surprising point of connection between Pilar and Lourdes, whose relationship is chronically strained. Even though her mother does not agree with the painting's subversive message, she defends it against a man who sees it as un-American and wishes to shred it with a knife. Because it is an act of communication and a meaningful creation of her daughter, it is part of Lourdes herself. It may also be an acknowledgment by Lourdes that there is some truth to the message Pilar hopes to convey. In any case, Lourdes recognizes the need to let her daughter have a voice—even if she doesn't approve of what she has to say. The love that Pilar feels for her mother is a reflection of this new connection, which could not have been created by or expressed through words.

Lourdes Puente's Baked Goods

For Lourdes, the 1959 socialist revolution is a force of destruction, both for herself personally and for her homeland of Cuba. After fleeing Cuba, she opens a bakery in New York City and eats until she becomes extremely obese. The baked goods bring Lourdes economic stability and therefore control and power over her life in her adopted homeland. They also feed her appetite, providing her the comfort (of sweetness) and protection (of obesity) she lacked in Cuba when she miscarried and was raped by a soldier in Fidel Castro's (1926–2016) army. In Chapter 8 the narrator explains, "Each glistening eclair is a grenade aimed at Celia's political beliefs," which are sympathetic to the revolution. Additionally, the baked goods are "proof—in butter, cream, and eggs—of Lourdes's success in America, and a reminder of the ongoing shortages in Cuba."

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