Critical Context

Cristina García, the author of Dreaming in Cuban, was born in Cuba in 1958, shortly before the revolution. Her parents were among the many Cubans who emigrated to the United States following that revolution, and the author spent her childhood in New York. She has worked as a journalist for Time magazine; Dreaming in Cuban is her first work of fiction.

Dreaming in Cuban is not about Cuba but rather about Cubans and the strange social and spiritual attitudes that pervade Cuban society. The Communist government of Cuba retained power even after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the vanishing of support from that country. At the same time, Catholicism has remained the dominant religion, with an underpinning of ancient African rites. The seeming conflict between rational Marxism as espoused by the government and the private practice of secret rituals involving ancient magic makes Cuban society unique.

Dreaming in Cuban is a study in contradictions. The book opens with Celia Del Pino guarding the coast against an attack from the north; the failed Bay of Pigs invasion is still a recent memory. Yet some of her family are living in the United States. Her husband, in fact, had gone to New York for medical treatment when he discovered he had cancer; he dies there just before the opening of the story. When the family members all return to Cuba for Felicia’s funeral, there is no real sign of reconciliation. The members of the New York branch of the family are still culturally tied to the land of their birth, but they have no intention of remaining in Cuba. Lourdes, the most extremely anti-Communist member of the family, ends the story by giving Ivanito, her young nephew, money to get out of Cuba.