A Cup of Water Under My Bed Characters
The main characters in A Cup of Water Under My Bed are Daisy Hernández, Alicia Hernández, Ygnacio Hernández, and Daisy’s three aunts.
- Daisy Hernández is the author and narrator of the memoir. She explores her identity as the child of immigrants, as a bisexual woman, and as a writer.
- Alicia Hernández is Daisy’s mother, who works as a seamstress.
- Ygnacio Hernández is Daisy’s father, from whom Daisy feels some distance.
- Daisy’s three aunts are Tía Rosa, Tía Chuchi, and Tía Dora. They live with the family when Daisy is young.
Last Updated on April 7, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1129
Daisy Hernández is an American woman with Cuban and Colombian heritage. She is writing her memoirs as a means of both leaving her family behind and remaining close to them. Her goal is to express what it is like to be an “Americana,” someone who was raised speaking one language and then educated in another, and therefore does not quite fit into any culture. As a very young child, Daisy spoke only Spanish. When she was sent to school, she was forced to speak in English and eventually realized that her Spanish was actually infantile and incorrect, which caused a sense of loss.
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Daisy is both strongly connected to her family and resentful of their beliefs; as a bisexual woman, she tries to express to her mother that it was because of her hard work that Daisy feels able to make these choices for herself. However, Daisy’s mother and aunts feel alienated by Daisy’s sexuality. When Daisy becomes a New York Times journalist, they feel she has reached the pinnacle of what she should achieve, but Daisy comes to recognize that her trajectory is not what anyone expected it to be. She is neither a white American, nor a Cuban, nor a Colombian, but something else entirely.
Liliana is Daisy’s younger sister. When Daisy begins to “resent” Spanish, Daisy begins speaking to Liliana only in English, as if the pair could forge their own identity together. Liliana eventually moves away to Washington, DC.
Alicia Hernández is Daisy’s mother. As a young woman, she was invited to come to New Jersey and look for work, under the premise that money was plentiful in the United States and she would be able to send a fortune home to her family. Having initially expected to stay for a month, Alicia found that it was much more difficult than promised to make money, and after several months, she met and fell in love with Daisy’s father, a Cuban and a legal immigrant. They married and, with the aid of a lawyer, were able to sponsor Alicia together for legal immigrant status.
A seamstress and a hard worker, Alicia does not always see eye to eye with her daughter. She is distrustful of men, particularly Colombian men, and feels that whiteness is the ultimate goal of existence—she wants her daughter to become “white.” At the same time, she is a follower of a very traditional folk religion, and some of the trappings of white America—such as sexual freedom and the use of credit—that are normal to Daisy are confusing and upsetting to Alicia. Ultimately, however, Daisy feels that there is a “boldness” in her mother that is borne out when Alicia is able to start her own business performing alterations after moving to Florida.
Ygnacio, Daisy’s father, is named only a few times. Throughout the book, he is identified as “Papi” and “my father,” which emphasizes the fact that Daisy often does not feel that she knows him. Ygnacio is a Cuban who fought against Castro and then came to the United States to find work. At first, this was easy, but in the 1980s, it became more difficult, and he struggled with unemployment. He is also an alcoholic and sometimes injures himself as a result of his drinking. He spends a lot of time alone and is secretive. Although not habitually abusive, he hit Daisy early in her childhood, which stoked resentment.
Unlike the rest of the family, Ygnacio does not attend church; eventually, Daisy discovers that this is because he is a follower of a folk religion that uses santos and shrines as a means of purging negative emotion and navigating the world. Ygnacio’s santeras, or folk priestesses, visit him to try to cure him of his illnesses and anger. Like his wife, he wants his daughter to become as “white” as possible in order to progress and to become better and wealthier than he is.
Tía Rosa is Alicia’s oldest sister. In Colombia, she was a schoolteacher; when she arrives in the United States, she becomes a cleaner for a white woman. Of the sisters, she is the most protective of Daisy, saying that there is no reason to expect her to speak perfect Spanish given that she is “Americana.” Rosa is married to a Puerto Rican man.
Tía Chuchi is the middle sister of Alicia’s family. In Colombia, she, too, was a schoolteacher. She is glamorous, wearing red lipstick to church and telling fantastic stories to her nieces, but she believes that God is the only man one can trust and never marries. She works alongside Alicia, sewing clothes in a factory. Chuchi takes Daisy to have her fortune told before Daisy leaves for college.
The youngest of Alicia’s sisters, Tía Dora seems to have the greatest emotional impact on Daisy because of her extreme reaction to Daisy’s bisexuality. Dora is a Spanish teacher as well as a cleaner, and she is very concerned by Daisy’s inability to speak Spanish adequately. She initially came to the United States because she was suffering from a parasite in her stomach; this condition persists and eventually kills her. Before Dora’s death, she and Daisy are estranged; it is only when she believes Daisy to be dating men again (not knowing that Daisy’s boyfriend is a trans man) that the two reconcile. Daisy is never able to be fully honest with Dora, but she gently tries to change Dora’s opinions when gay marriage is legalized in California.
Julio, Daisy’s first boyfriend, is a Colombian man whom she met while both were working at McDonald’s. Daisy was extremely sensible in this relationship, as she feared teenage pregnancy. She moved in with Julio for a brief time before leaving for college.
La Viejeta María
La Viejita María is an exemplar of many women who exist in Spanish communities in the United States. She is a witch or folk healer, curing nightmares with cups of water under beds and reading the fortunes of those in the community. Daisy trusts her; María promises that there will be enough money for Daisy to succeed, and Daisy believes this to be foreshadowing of the Trustee scholarship that she wins later.
Gwen is a symbol of violence against trans and queer people. Daisy wrote a profile about Gwen’s death while working as a journalist. A young trans woman, Gwen was accepted by her mother but rejected by her community. She was murdered by two young straight men out of violent panic when it was discovered that she was transgender.