Dreaming in Cuban

by

Cristina García

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Dreaming in Cuban Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Cristina García's Dreaming in Cuban. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Cristina García

Cristina García was born to a Guatemalan father and a Cuban mother. In 1961, when García was two and a half, her family was among the earliest wave of people to flee to the United States after Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. García grew up in several New York City boroughs, including Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. She studied political science at Barnard College and later earned a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins. After spending time in Italy and Germany, García worked as a journalist in Miami. In 1984, after revisiting Cuba for the first time since childhood, García felt torn between Cuba and Miami’s Cuban exile community, prompting the questions of identity which later gave shape to Dreaming in Cuban. The novel was nominated for a National Book Award. Six months after its publication, García gave birth to her daughter, Pilar. Her later novels—including King of Cuba, Monkey Hunting, and Here in Berlin—explore questions of immigration and identity more broadly.
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Historical Context of Dreaming in Cuban

The events of the novel revolve around the Cuban Revolution, which was carried out by Fidel Castro and his followers against President Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship. The Revolution took place over the course of the 1950s, beginning in 1953 with an attack on a military barracks led by Fidel Castro (the 26th of July Movement) and concluding on January 1, 1959. However, the Revolution’s work didn’t truly end in 1959—the following years radically transformed Cuban society to accord with communist beliefs and practices. While greater equality was sought and improvements were made in areas like education and healthcare, the Revolution also included executions of political criminals without due process and forced suppression of dissent. The Revolution resulted in a freeze in U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations, which has thawed slightly since 2015. About 500,000 Cubans left Cuba for the United States in the 20 years following the Revolution.

Other Books Related to Dreaming in Cuban

Besides poetry, García has said that while working on Dreaming in Cuban, she was inspired by the stories of Anton Chekhov and the magical realist fiction of Franz Kafka (especially The Metamorphosis), Jorge Luis Borges (Ficciones), and Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera). As a novel that focuses on the 1950s Cuban Revolution and its after-effects, Dreaming in Cuban is also similar to books like Christina Diaz Gonzales’s The Red Umbrella and Enrique Flores-Galbis’s 90 Miles to Havana. Additionally, Dreaming in Cuban is a story that focuses on different generations of a single family, namely Celia (the del Pino matriarch) and her daughters and granddaughter. In this way, the novel is aligned with other contemporary books with intergenerational narratives, including Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, and Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex.
Key Facts about Dreaming in Cuban
  • Full Title: Dreaming in Cuban
  • When Written: 1990
  • Where Written: Hawaii
  • When Published: 1992
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Historical Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Setting: Santa Teresa del Mar, Cuba; Havana, Cuba; New York City
  • Climax: Pilar visits Celia in Cuba.
  • Antagonist: The antagonist varies depending upon different characters’ points of view. Lourdes Puente, Celia del Pino, the United States and capitalism, and El Líder (Fidel Castro) and communism are all antagonists to various characters in the book.
  • Point of View: Third Person; First Person

Extra Credit for Dreaming in Cuban

From Poem to Novel. Dreaming in Cuban actually began as a poem. After the poem reached 100 pages, García was surprised to discover that she was actually writing a novel, which she’d never set out to do.

Biographical Basis. García, having grown up in New York City with a stronger New Yorker identity than a Cuban one, identifies most strongly with the character of Pilar. In writing about Pilar’s reunion with Celia, García hoped to capture the sense of loss she personally experienced after decades of separation from her own grandmother, whom she finally met in Cuba in 1984.