Study Guide

Ivanito Villaverde in Dreaming in Cuban

Ivanito Villaverde

A Peculiar Boy?

Our first glimpses of Ivanito reveal him to be a precocious little boy who is able to withstand the fire of his mother's deepest psychosis. He even plays along with his mother, indulging her in games that cater to her disordered senses: they "speak" in greens, reds, and blues as they hunt for coconuts. Ivanito has no other experience of his mother's behavior and only knows her at the stage where her "obsessions grow like something botanical, dense and violent" ("Fire," 86). For him, this is a level of normal.

Ivanito is excluded from the protective sphere that his twin sisters Luz and Milagro have drawn around themselves. The girls actively dislike their brother for clinging to their delusional mother and they suspect that he is perhaps as insane as she is. They shun him as much as possible and openly chastise him for using language that sounds like their mother's poetic nonsense.

However, Ivanito's attention to Felicia turns out to be the purest and best thing that ever happened to Felicia, despite the fact that she pays him out very poorly in the end.

Lucky Boy?

Yes, his mother does try to kill him. But he recalls her florid language and meandering thoughts as part of an invaluable education: "'Imagination, like memory, can transform lies to truths,'" Felicia whispers in her son's ear. Nobody else teaches him that'" ("Fire," 88). In this sense, Ivanito has the capacity to experience his mother's scarily vast imagination and come away unscathed.

It turns out the Ivanito has many good qualities: intelligence, an affectionate nature, ambition, a love for poetry—and he's a wicked good dancer. These attributes bring Lourdes and Pilar around to the same conclusion: there's no way that Ivanito can remain in Cuba. If he does, it's very possible that he'll turn out like Felicia or Uncle Javier: isolated, frustrated, and crushed in spirit.

Ivanito has something that neither Felicia nor Javier ever had. He kind of has two fairy godmothers who aren't afraid to act. Lourdes and Pilar circle the wagons around Ivanito and get him out of Dodge, so to speak. It's a struggle for both Pilar and Ivanito to consider abandoning their grandmother, but the young people know that they have to move on if they are to find their places in the world.