Silent Wing Essays and Criticism
by Jose Raul Bernardo

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Imagery and Foreshadowing

(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Affairs of the heart are the central focus of this historical fiction based on the true life of Jose Julian Marti, Cuba's national poet and revolutionary hero. Heroes, by definition, may seem larger than life and nearly perfect. They may appear to be fearless, confident, self-satisfied, never filled with self-doubt. Julian is a "hero" plagued by self-doubt, fear, and a never-ending list of questions. These questions revolve around ideals such as keeping one's word, honoring promises and pledges made, and being true to one's dreams no matter the personal cost.

Despite being exiled from his homeland of Cuba, Julian endeavors to "get a job, to marry Lucia and start a family". Yet, Julian quickly realizes that he has a more important dream: "Freeing my homeland is my dream. My life's ambition, my life's cause. My destiny". It is that dream that has brought him to Guatemala City. The city in the jungle upon first encounter seems to draw him in: "The valley is shrouded by a thick, pale gray mist that hovers over it, moving very languidly. And piercing through that mist there appear to be dozens of tall, white, pointing spires, almost obelisks’’. He soon discovers they are bell towers, dozens of them. He feels at once that this is the place for him to renew his dreams. He has traveled through the jungle and has acquired an appreciation for Guatemala and its people. He does not cease thinking about his homeland but the poet/writer in him is enticed by the beauty that he sees all around him to languish for a brief time.

Enroute to the haven of Guatemala City, he had stopped for a time in Puerto Dulce, arriving on Good Friday afternoon. Mayan Indians had gathered for their yearly procession through the village streets. It was said that the display was to ‘‘pacify two gods they fear most: the god who spurts tongues of fire from the mountaintops and the god who shakes the earth’’. Julian watched three life-sized statues be carried past. There were two white women statues with "pale blue glass eyes and long curly wigs of real blond hair’’ that were ‘‘kneeling down, their polychromed wooden faces weeping carved tears’’. But it was the third statue that had caught Julian's attention. It was a ‘‘standing figure of a tired white man with a long curly beard and with the saddest eyes Julian had ever seen’’. There was "something" about the statue that did not ‘‘look right.’’ Julian did not figure this out until after he arrived in Guatemala City and was meeting Professor Saavedra for the first time.

Julian was thinking about how complacent Professor Saavedra, a fellow Cuban exile, seemed as he smoked his Cuban cigar and explained the responsibilities of an instructor to Julian. Julian's thoughts drifted to questions. He wondered if that was how he was ‘‘going to end.’’ He thought about having been born a "doer.’’ Then he thought about dreams: ‘‘But dreams have to be made into reality, at whatever the cost. At whatever the sacrifice. Or else they remain nothing but dreams. I am not going to dry up, if it is true that only the blood of martyrs feeds dreams, well then, Lord, please, let me feed dreams, even if that means that I'd have to become a martyr myself." There is a saying that one should be careful what one wishes for. This is the case with Julian. He is destined to be a "doer." He will be instrumental in gathering an army that he will lead on Cuban soil to fight and die for the cause of freedom. It is at this moment that he discovers what he had thought "wrong" about the statue in the Good Friday procession: ‘‘His eyes. That was what was wrong with the image of that man. His eyes—the eyes of the man carrying the cross would not could not have been the saddest eyes in the world, but on the contrary, they would have been the most exultant eyes in the world, enraptured with joy. Because, by his action, that man was feeding dreams. And by feeding dreams, he was making his own dreams come...

(The entire section is 2,965 words.)