Dreaming in Cuban

Cristina García


Welcome to the colorful and captivating world of Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García! 🌴📖 This novel, first published in 1992, dives deep into the complexities of family, identity, and the unbreakable ties to homeland, through the lens of three generations of Cuban women. Cristina García, an American journalist and novelist of Cuban descent, crafts a narrative that is as rich and layered as Cuba’s own history. With her poetic prose and vivid imagery, García brings to life the struggles and dreams of her characters, making Dreaming in Cuban a standout piece in the genre of magical realism. Whether you’re a lover of intricate family sagas, intrigued by Cuban history, or a fan of beautifully written stories that transport you to another place and time, this book is a journey you’ll want to embark on. 📚💖

Plot Summary

Dreaming in Cuban unfolds the story of the del Pino family, offering a window into the diverse experiences and perspectives shaped by the Cuban Revolution. Here’s how the story develops:

Exposition — The narrative introduces us to Celia del Pino, the matriarch of the family, her daughters Lourdes and Felicia, and her granddaughter Pilar. Each character is distinctly affected by the political turmoil and personal challenges within Cuba and the United States, setting the stage for their individual and collective journeys.

Rising Action — Tensions escalate as the family’s differing political views and personal ambitions lead them down separate paths. Lourdes moves to the United States and becomes a staunch anti-Communist, while her sister Felicia struggles with mental illness and spiritual quests in Cuba. Meanwhile, Pilar, a young artist in New York, yearns to reconnect with her Cuban roots and her grandmother Celia, who remains loyal to the Revolution.

Climax — The pivotal moment occurs when Pilar decides to return to Cuba to visit Celia, bridging the physical and emotional distance that has grown between the family members over the years. This reunion is fraught with conflict and revelations, as the characters confront their past decisions and their impacts on each other.

Falling Action — In the aftermath of Pilar’s visit, the family members begin to reflect on their identities and the ties that bind them. Felicia’s tragic fate prompts a deeper understanding of her struggles, while Lourdes and Pilar navigate their complex mother-daughter relationship, each finding new paths to healing and understanding.

Resolution — The novel closes with a sense of tentative reconciliation and acceptance. Though the del Pino family remains scattered and marked by their individual traumas and beliefs, there’s a glimmer of hope that the younger generation, represented by Pilar, might bridge the divides of history, culture, and politics that have separated them.

Through its vivid portrayal of the del Pino family, Dreaming in Cuban captures the enduring impact of political and personal upheaval, and the intricate dance of remembering and forgetting that shapes our connections to family and homeland.

Character Analysis

Dreaming in Cuban is as much a story of its characters as it is of Cuba itself. Each character is meticulously crafted, showcasing profound growth and complexity throughout the narrative. Let’s dive into the main characters and their journeys:

  • Celia del Pino — A staunch supporter of the Cuban Revolution, Celia is the resilient matriarch of the del Pino family. Her unwavering loyalty to her country contrasts sharply with the personal sacrifices she’s made, including enduring long separations from her children and grappling with unfulfilled love. Celia’s relationship with her granddaughter, Pilar, highlights the enduring bonds of family and the silent strength that defines her.
  • Lourdes Puente — Celia’s eldest daughter, Lourdes, emigrates to the United States and becomes an adamant opponent of the Cuban government. Her patriotism for her adopted country and her entrepreneurship as a bakery owner mask deeper struggles with trauma and loss. Lourdes’ complex relationship with her daughter Pilar and her homeland reflects the tensions between memory, identity, and the quest for belonging.
  • Felicia del Pino — The troubled soul of the family, Felicia battles mental illness and spiritual unrest, often finding herself at odds with societal norms in Cuba. Her life is marked by intense love affairs, spiritual quests, and tragic losses, which underscore the novel’s themes of passion, pain, and the search for redemption.
  • Pilar Puente — A young artist living in New York, Pilar represents the bridge between Cuba and America, the past and the present. Her rebellious spirit and deep longing for connection with her Cuban roots drive her journey back to the island, where she seeks to understand her family’s history and her own identity. Pilar’s character embodies the diaspora’s struggle with cultural identity, belonging, and the generational gap that separates her from her Cuban heritage.

Here’s a summary of their character development in a table format:

Celia del PinoResilient, loyalDedication to Cuba, family loveGrows in silent strength, embraces her complex past
Lourdes PuentePatriotic, entrepreneurialSearch for belonging, healingLearns to navigate her identities, reconciles with her past
Felicia del PinoTroubled, passionateQuest for love, redemptionFaces her demons, tragic yet insightful resolution
Pilar PuenteArtistic, rebelliousConnection to roots, understandingBridges family and cultural divides, finds self-awareness

Through these characters, Dreaming in Cuban explores the intricacies of identity, family, and the invisible threads that tie us to our heritage. Each character’s journey is a testament to the power of storytelling in navigating the complexities of life and the unbreakable bonds of love and memory.

Themes and Symbols

Dreaming in Cuban is a rich tapestry of themes and symbols, each contributing to the novel’s exploration of identity, exile, and the unbreakable bond between the personal and political. Let’s delve into the major themes and symbols:

  • Identity and Exile — The novel meticulously explores the theme of identity, both personal and cultural, through the experiences of its characters in relation to their homeland. Exile, both physical and emotional, serves as a backdrop to the characters’ struggles with their identities. The Cuban-American diaspora, represented by Pilar and Lourdes, grapples with feelings of displacement and longing for a homeland that is both remembered and imagined.
  • The Power of Memory — Memory plays a crucial role in the novel, acting as a bridge between past and present, Cuba and America. Through the characters’ recollections and the narrative’s magical realism, memory is shown to be both a source of pain and a means of preservation of culture and identity. Celia’s letters to Gustavo, which are never sent, symbolize the power of memory to keep love and loss alive across decades and distances.
  • The Political and the Personal — García weaves the political history of Cuba into the personal stories of the del Pino family, highlighting how political forces shape individual lives and relationships. The contrasting viewpoints of Celia’s allegiance to the revolution and Lourdes’s anti-Communist stance in the United States underscore the complexities of navigating personal beliefs within the larger political context.
  • Spirituality and Santería — Santería, a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin, symbolizes the blending of cultures and beliefs in Cuba. Felicia’s turn to Santería as a means of healing and understanding reflects the search for identity and connection beyond the physical world. The rituals and symbols of Santería in the novel underscore themes of resilience, rebirth, and the cyclical nature of life.
  • The Ocean — A recurring symbol in the novel, the ocean represents the vast emotional and physical distances between Cuba and the United States. For Celia, who spends hours watching the sea, it is a symbol of longing and the unattainable, as well as a reminder of her enduring love for Gustavo. The ocean’s presence in the novel speaks to the characters’ deep connections to their homeland and to each other, despite the gulfs that separate them.

Through these themes and symbols, Dreaming in Cuban paints a vivid picture of the complexities of family, history, and identity. García’s novel invites readers to reflect on the ways in which personal and political histories are intertwined, and how memory and belief can serve as both a refuge and a source of perpetual longing.

Writing Style and Tone

Cristina García’s Dreaming in Cuban is notable for its richly textured writing style and the evocative tone that brings to life the complexities of Cuban identity and diaspora. Here’s a closer look at how these elements contribute to the mood and atmosphere of the book:

  • Lyrical Prose — García’s prose is poetic and lush, filled with vivid imagery and sensory details that transport readers to the vibrant landscapes of Cuba and the contrasting scenes of New York. Her ability to weave Spanish phrases and Cuban cultural references into the narrative enriches the reading experience, adding authenticity and depth to the characters’ world.
  • Magical Realism — A hallmark of Latin American literature, magical realism is used by García to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, illustrating the characters’ emotional and psychological states. This technique allows for a deeper exploration of themes like memory, love, and loss, as the supernatural becomes a natural extension of the characters’ inner lives.
  • Multiple Perspectives — The novel’s narrative unfolds through multiple viewpoints, offering a kaleidoscopic view of the del Pino family’s saga. This shifting perspective not only adds complexity to the storyline but also allows for a multifaceted exploration of identity, belonging, and the effects of political turmoil. García’s choice to give each character their own voice and inner world creates a rich tapestry of experiences and emotions.
  • Emotional Depth — García’s writing is imbued with a profound sense of longing and nostalgia, capturing the heartache of exile and the unbreakable ties to homeland. The tone of the novel fluctuates between hope and despair, love and loss, reflecting the turbulent history of Cuba and the personal dramas of the del Pino family. Through her emotive language, García invites readers to feel the characters’ joys and sorrows, making their journey an immersive experience.
  • Cultural Richness — The incorporation of Cuban history, politics, and traditions into the narrative adds a layer of cultural richness to the story. García’s detailed descriptions of Cuban life, from the food and music to the spiritual practices of Santería, paint a vivid picture of a nation marked by beauty and contradictions. This attention to cultural detail not only educates readers but also serves as a tribute to the resilience and spirit of the Cuban people.

Through her distinctive writing style and tone, Cristina García offers a compelling portrait of a family caught between worlds, exploring the enduring bonds of love, memory, and identity. Dreaming in Cuban stands as a testament to the power of storytelling to capture the nuances of human experience against the backdrop of historical forces.

Literary Devices Used in Dreaming in Cuban

Cristina García’s Dreaming in Cuban showcases a masterful use of literary devices that enrich the narrative and deepen the reader’s engagement with the text. Here are the top 10 literary devices used in the novel:

  1. Symbolism — The ocean serves as a powerful symbol throughout the novel, representing the emotional and physical divide between Cuba and the United States, as well as the characters’ longing and separation. Similarly, Santería rituals symbolize the connection to heritage and the spiritual realm.
  2. Imagery — García’s vivid imagery brings to life the sensory experiences of Cuba and its diaspora, from the taste of guava to the heat of the Cuban sun, immersing readers in a richly detailed world.
  3. Flashback — The narrative frequently delves into the past through flashbacks, revealing the history of the del Pino family and the events that shaped their identities and destinies. This device helps to build a complex, layered story.
  4. Foreshadowing — Subtle hints and clues about future events are woven into the narrative, building tension and anticipation. For example, early mentions of Felicia’s struggles with mental health foreshadow her tragic fate.
  5. Magical Realism — Blending the mundane with the magical, García introduces elements of the supernatural as a natural part of the characters’ lives, enriching the narrative with a sense of wonder and mystery.
  6. Multiple Narrators — The use of multiple narrators offers diverse perspectives on the story, highlighting the complexity of the characters’ experiences and viewpoints. This device allows for a more nuanced exploration of themes like identity and exile.
  7. Irony — Through situational and dramatic irony, García reveals the contradictions and unexpected outcomes in the characters’ lives, often highlighting the bitter-sweetness of their desires and realities.
  8. Metaphor — The novel is rich with metaphors that deepen the thematic content, such as comparing memories to a “phantom limb,” suggesting both the pain and the persistent presence of the past in the characters’ lives.
  9. Personification — García personifies elements of nature and objects, imbuing them with emotional weight and significance. For example, the sea is often described as whispering, crying, or embracing, enhancing the novel’s lyrical quality.
  10. Alliteration and Assonance — The use of alliteration and assonance adds a musical quality to García’s prose, enhancing the beauty of her language and reinforcing the emotional and thematic layers of the text.

Each of these literary devices plays a crucial role in crafting the immersive and emotionally resonant world of Dreaming in Cuban, allowing Cristina García to explore the intricate ties of family, culture, and history with depth and nuance.

Literary Devices Examples

In Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García, the use of literary devices not only enhances the narrative but also deepens the connection between the reader and the story. Here’s a look at examples and explanations for each of the top 10 literary devices identified:


  • The Ocean: Represents the physical and emotional distance between the characters and their homeland, Cuba.
  • Santería Rituals: Symbolize the characters’ connections to their cultural and spiritual heritage.


  • Sensory Descriptions of Cuba: Vivid descriptions of the landscape, food, and weather evoke a strong sense of place and culture.


  • Celia’s Memories: Flashbacks to Celia’s youth and her relationship with Gustavo provide critical insight into her character and motivations.


  • Felicia’s Mental Health: Early mentions of Felicia’s eccentricities and struggles foreshadow her later battles with mental illness.

Magical Realism

  • Pilar’s Dreams: Pilar’s dreams and psychic connections with her grandmother blend the boundaries between reality and the supernatural.

Multiple Narrators

  • Varied Perspectives: The shifting narrative perspectives offer a multifaceted view of the family saga, highlighting differing experiences and perceptions of Cuba and exile.


  • Lourdes’s Patriotism: Lourdes’s fervent American patriotism, contrasted with her Cuban heritage, illustrates the irony of her search for identity and belonging.


  • Memories as a “Phantom Limb”: This metaphor conveys the persistent, often painful presence of the past in the characters’ lives.


  • The Sea as a Living Entity: The sea is often described with human-like qualities, emphasizing its significance in the characters’ emotional landscapes.

Alliteration and Assonance

These examples showcase Cristina García’s skillful use of literary devices to weave a complex and emotionally rich narrative in Dreaming in Cuban. Through symbolism, imagery, and the other devices outlined, García invites readers into a deeply textured world where the personal is political, and the past is ever-present.

Dreaming in Cuban – FAQs

Q: What is the primary setting of Dreaming in Cuban?
A: The primary settings are Cuba and the United States, specifically New York. The novel explores the experiences of the del Pino family within these two contrasting cultures and landscapes, highlighting the impact of the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban-American diaspora.

Q: Who is the author of Dreaming in Cuban, and what is her background?
A: Cristina García is the author. She is a Cuban-American novelist, journalist, and professor known for her exploration of Cuban culture, identity, and exile. García’s own experiences as part of the Cuban diaspora deeply inform her writing, providing a rich, authentic perspective on the themes she explores.

Q: How does Dreaming in Cuban address the theme of identity?
A: The novel addresses identity through its characters’ complex relationships with their homeland and their experiences of exile and assimilation. Themes of cultural identity, generational differences, and personal versus political identities are explored through the diverse perspectives of the del Pino family members.

Q: What role does magical realism play in the novel?
A: Magical realism in Dreaming in Cuban serves to blur the lines between reality and the supernatural, reflecting the characters’ inner worlds and the cultural blend of African, Spanish, and indigenous influences in Cuban society. It enriches the narrative by introducing elements of fantasy that symbolize deeper truths about life, identity, and connection.

Q: Can Dreaming in Cuban be considered a political novel?
A: Yes, to an extent. While Dreaming in Cuban is deeply rooted in the personal experiences and emotions of its characters, it is also imbued with political undertones. The impact of the Cuban Revolution and the characters’ diverse political views offer insight into the complex socio-political landscape of Cuba and its diaspora.

Q: What is the significance of the novel’s title?
A: The title Dreaming in Cuban reflects the novel’s exploration of identity, longing, and belonging through the lens of the Cuban diaspora. It suggests a state of being caught between worlds, where dreams of Cuba—whether literal dreams or metaphorical aspirations—serve as a connection to a homeland that is both deeply loved and deeply contested.

Q: How does the novel explore the theme of family?
A: The novel delves into the dynamics of the del Pino family, showcasing how political beliefs, personal aspirations, and generational divides shape their relationships. It portrays the complexities of love, loyalty, and conflict within the family, highlighting the ways in which personal and historical forces intersect in shaping family ties.


Who is the matriarch of the del Pino family?LourdesCeliaFeliciaPilar
What is a major theme of the novel?TechnologyIdentity and ExileCulinary ArtsFashion Design
Where does Lourdes live after leaving Cuba?MiamiNew YorkLos AngelesChicago
What role does Santería play in the novel?It’s a dance styleA culinary traditionA sportA spiritual practice
How does the novel primarily explore the effects of the Cuban Revolution?Through political debatesThrough family dynamicsThrough a historical overviewThrough a fictionalized version of Castro
What literary device is used to blend reality and the supernatural?IronyMagical RealismMetaphorSatire
Which character struggles with mental health issues?PilarGustavoFeliciaLourdes
What symbolizes the emotional and physical distance between Cuba and the United States?The desertThe oceanThe skyA wall
What narrative technique allows for multiple perspectives in the story?First-person narrativeThird-person omniscientMultiple narratorsStream of consciousness
Which character seeks to reconnect with her Cuban roots?FeliciaCeliaLourdesPilar


  1. B – Celia
  2. B – Identity and Exile
  3. B – New York
  4. D – A spiritual practice
  5. B – Through family dynamics
  6. B – Magical Realism
  7. C – Felicia
  8. B – The ocean
  9. C – Multiple narrators
  10. D – Pilar

This quiz provides a comprehensive overview of key elements in Dreaming in Cuban, testing readers’ understanding of its themes, characters, and literary techniques.


Identify the literary devices used in the following paragraph from Dreaming in Cuban:

“Celia watches the ocean, its waves whispering secrets in a rhythm only she can understand. The sea, a tapestry of blue and green, stretches far beyond the horizon, carrying with it tales of distant lands and lost loves. In her heart, a longing simmers, a yearning for a past that dances just out of reach, like the melody of a forgotten song. The ocean, an eternal witness to her solitude, embraces her silent dreams with its vast, unspoken promises.”


  • Imagery: Descriptive language that appeals to the senses, painting a vivid picture of the ocean’s appearance and sound (“waves whispering secrets,” “a tapestry of blue and green”).
  • Personification: The ocean is given human-like qualities, capable of whispering, carrying tales, and embracing dreams (“its waves whispering secrets,” “embraces her silent dreams”).
  • Symbolism: The ocean symbolizes Celia’s deep emotions and memories, representing both the physical divide between her and her loved ones and the emotional landscape of her inner world (“carrying with it tales of distant lands and lost loves”).
  • Metaphor: The comparison of the longing in her heart to a simmering pot and a yearning for the past as a dance or melody emphasizes the intensity and depth of her feelings without using “like” or “as” (“a longing simmers,” “dances just out of reach”).
  • Alliteration: The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words close together adds a musical quality to the passage (“secrets in a rhythm,” “stretches far beyond”).

This exercise demonstrates how Cristina García uses a blend of literary devices to enrich her narrative, creating a deeply immersive and emotive reading experience in Dreaming in Cuban.