Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like the rest of the stories in the collection Todos los negros tomamos café, the title story “We Blacks All Drink Coffee” deals with young people serving the Cuban government as brigadiers in the coffee harvest. The Cuban Revolution and the resultant break with capitalism resulted in the virtual closing of Cuba’s borders to exchanges with the West, including free trade. The country needed a cheap labor force, so it initiated a widespread push for people to participate in community service. The government’s adherence to Marxist ideology provoked profound changes in longstanding traditions, many stemming back to when Spain colonized the island.

As implied by the daughter, the new revolutionary society is tolerant of boys and girls going on extended work trips together, accepting of pregnancy out of wedlock, and nonjudgmental about mixed marriages. However, the mother’s response indicates that pre-revolutionary values still linger among the older generation.

Embedded in the story’s conflict, which on the surface captures young people’s universal cry for independence, lies the tension between the traditional family values of Cuba before the Marxist revolution and the liberal social values that have evolved since then. The mother symbolizes old world Cuba, in which gender roles were conventional, racial segregation common, and protection of women’s virginity was considered essential for maintaining a family’s reputation and an untarnished white racial...

(The entire section is 613 words.)