Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Dreaming in Cuban works on three levels. At the surface, it is a melodrama, the story of various members of a large family scattered among New York, Florida, and Cuba. This, however, is the least intense part of the story. The fact that this is a Cuban family, wherever its members may live, is central to the work.

The political level of the novel is quite close to the surface. The characters include Communists working hard for El Lider and capitalists who despise the Cuban government. The author’s own political stance is never made clear. Communism is praised and criticized alternately. The major point is that the characters themselves, both those who remain in Cuba and those who emigrate to the United States, are somewhat confused. The members of the third generation, especially Pilar, are torn between a way of life in Cuba that is uncomfortable and a longing for a return “home.”

The most intense part of the story, and the reason for the title, is spiritual. Cuba, as a Communist country, is supposed to be atheistic; however, spiritual values are not changed instantly by an altering of the political climate. Most Cubans in the story are Roman Catholics; only Pilar, the most American of the family and the youngest character portrayed in detail, considers atheism as a possible way of life.

Underneath Catholicism, however, lies an even older religion. The story begins and ends with rites of Santeria, an ancient religion...

(The entire section is 490 words.)