The Characters

Celia, the matriarch of the family, is an old woman at the outset, but she is nevertheless a strong supporter of the new ways that Fidel Castro (El Lider) has imposed upon her native country. Her religious views are somewhat ambivalent; while she is nominally a Catholic, as most people in her country are, one of the earliest scenes in the novel involves a Santeria ceremony. Celia is first seen guarding the coast of Cuba against a replay of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and she is last shown at a Santeria ceremony following the death of her daughter Felicia.

Lourdes lives at the opposite extreme. She has fled to the United States and runs a bakery in New York City. She opens a second bakery during the second section of the book and dreams of franchising a series of bakeries. Lourdes, though born in Cuba, is never seen in that country until the epilogue, when she appears at her sister’s funeral.

Pilar, Lourdes’s daughter, is very American; she is interested in punk rock and is attempting to become a bass player in a rock band. On the other hand, she is also very interested in Cuba, and she finds it difficult to tolerate her mother’s fanatic hatred of Communism. She feels contempt for capitalist society and misses her older relatives in Cuba.

Felicia, who never leaves Cuba, is extremely opposed to Communism. Like her mother, she often has visions of the deceased Jorge.

Luz and Milagro, Felicia’s twin daughters, are...

(The entire section is 405 words.)

Characters Discussed

Celia Del Pino

Celia Del Pino (PEE-noh), the aging matriarch of the Del Pino family, a lifelong resident of Cuba, and a loyal Socialist. She proudly volunteers for the revolution and assists by harvesting sugar cane, judging local domestic disputes in the town hall, and watching for invaders from her porch swing overlooking the northern coast. After her husband, Jorge Del Pino, moved to New York to get cancer treatments, she replaced his photo on her nightstand with one of El Líder (Fidel Castro). She dreams of embracing the dictator on a red velvet divan. Celia’s passion for the revolution divides her family: She is independent and takes care of herself but is unable to hold her family together. Her children have left, one by one: Lourdes to New York, Javier to Czechoslovakia, and Felicia to insanity. She cares for Felicia’s children but ultimately is alone with her deep love of Cuba and the unpredictable sea, her clairvoyant visions, her dreams of long-ago lover Gustavo, and the persistent hope that granddaughter Pilar will return to Cuba, embrace family roots, and sustain their history. Her early life is revealed through her letters written to Gustavo.

Lourdes Puente

Lourdes Puente (LOOR-dehs PWEHN-teh), Celia’s first child. During the early years of the revolution, Lourdes miscarried her second child, a son. Angry and sad, she tried to defend her husband’s family’s ranch before it was confiscated, and she was raped by a soldier. She turns completely against Cuba and communism, embracing exile as a capitalist. With her husband and two-year-old daughter Pilar, she moves to New York, where she opens first one, then another successful Yankee Doodle Bakery. Domineering, compulsive, and fiercely proud to be American, she sends photos of pastries to her mother to emphasize the food shortages and lower standard of living...

(The entire section is 804 words.)

List of Characters

Abuelo Guillermo and Abuela Zaida
They are Pilar's paternal (Rufino Puente) grandparents in Florida.

Gustavo Sierra de Armas
A married Spanish lawyer from Granada, Gustavo is Celia's true love. Celia marries Jorge when Gustavo returns to Spain, but continues to write him letters every 11th of the month. She never sends the letters: some are included as epistolary chapters.

Blanquito
Blanquite is Pilar's cousin in Florida.

Ernesto Brito
Ernesto is Felicia's second husband. He is nervous and gentle. He is a restaurant inspector.

Otto Cruz
>Felicia's third husband, he works at an amusement park.

Herminia Delgado
Felicia's best and most loyal friend. Celia had once forbade Felicia from going to Herminia's house because her family practices Santeria.

Sister Federica
She is the nun who cared for Jorge in New York while he was sick.

Ruben Florin
Ruben is Pilar's boyfriend.

Minnie French
Minnie is a girl Pilar befriends on her bus trip to Florida.

Berta Arango del Pino
Berta is Jorge's mother. Controlling and verbally abusive, she is Celia's biggest antagonist.

Ofelia del Pino
Ofelina is Berta's daughter, Jorge's sister, and Celia's other antagonist.

Celia (Almeida) del Pino
The matriarch of the family and the novel, Celia del Pino is an ardent supporter of the Cuban Revolution, has tenuous relationships with her children. Her fervor for the revolution is only surpassed by her love of family, a strong bond with her granddaughter, Pilar, and her inherent connection with nature and the sea.

Javier del Pino
Celia's youngest,...

(The entire section is 531 words.)