Study Guide

Lourdes Puente in Dreaming in Cuban

By Cristina García

Lourdes Puente

Daddy's Girl

To say that Lourdes is a daddy's girl is understatement gone wild. Jorge not only favors her in this world, he returns from the dead to hang around with his best girl for a little while longer. It turns out that there are deeper spiritual reasons for this, but the appearance of supernatural favoritism is a little startling.

Lourdes has good reason to cling to her father. Her mother Celia suffers from a detachment disorder and what looks like paranoia even before she gives birth to her. In a letter to her lover, Gustavo, Celia writes:

The baby is porous. She has no shadow. The earth in its hunger has consumed it. She reads my thoughts, Gustavo. They are transparent. ("Letters: 1935-1940," 51)

Celia does not believe in the reality of the baby, or her situation as a wife to Jorge. She refuses to accept her role as mother and so hands Lourdes, like an object, to her father. There is something more that Lourdes does not know until a later date. Her beloved father was responsible for all of this.

But in the intervening years, Lourdes clings to her judgment of her mother, as if she could really read her thoughts and know about the love she didn't give her as an infant. She takes the place of her mother in her father's affections, even calling him while he's on the road and waiting for him in her best dress when he returns. Celia turns her hopes for the future to Felicia and, ultimately, to Pilar.

Lourdes' closeness with her father would have been very charming if the affection hadn't come at so high a price.

Cream Puff Queen

One of the more extraordinary things about Lourdes is her amazing adaptability. Although she suffers in ways the other members of her husband's family could not even imagine, she complains less than the rest of them. She's a real pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of girl—the perfect candidate for the American Dream. For her, exile is an opportunity of a lifetime:

Lourdes considers herself lucky. Immigration has redefined her, and she is grateful. Unlike her husband, she welcomes her adopted language, its possibilities for reinvention...She wants no part of Cuba, no part of its wretched carnival floats creaking with lies, no part of Cuba at all, which Lourdes claims never possessed her. ("Grove," 73)

Her optimism and her inexhaustible ability to move forward is born out of the blood and suffering that she left behind in her homeland. Her loss of country is not like Pilar's: she leaves behind her the loss of a child and a most violent rape. It's no wonder that the two can't see eye to eye on this subject.

Mother of the Future

Whether Pilar likes it or not, Lourdes actually did spawn her. Pilar speaks of her relationship with her mother as though it's another kind of exile—only this one is measured in the micro-distances across a kitchen table. The two butt heads on every conceivable issue, but most energetically on the subject of the motherland. Pilar holds a romanticized view of Cuba, which is entirely appropriate for her age and experience. But she cannot understand how Lourdes got to her philosophies and bakery-counter action committees:

Mom is fomenting her own brand of anarchy closer to home. Her Yankee Doodle bakeries have become gathering places for these shady Cuban extremists who come all the way from New Jersey and the Bronx to talk their dinosaur politics and drink her killer espressos. Last month they started a cablegram campaign against El Líder. ("Matrix," 177)

But Lourdes proves herself to be Pilar's mother in all the things that matter. She defends her daughter and her objectionable artwork from an overly patriotic customer wielding a knife. She follows Pilar to Cuba when she knows that the time is right. And ultimately, though she can never forgive her mother for the rejection, Lourdes, Celia, and Pilar all want the same things. They want their lives to matter. They want the freedom to create their own identities and for the people they love to know about and remember all the trials and triumphs of their lives.

Pilar becomes that person for Celia, guaranteeing that her grandmother's past will be transmitted to future members of the family. But who will be that person for Lourdes? When she visits her old ranch in Cuba, sorrow overwhelms her when she thinks about what she lost there:

What she fears most is this: that her rape, her baby's death were absorbed quietly by the earth, that they are ultimately no more meaningful than the falling leaves on an autumn day. She hungers for a violence of nature, terrible and permanent, to record the evil. ("Six Days," 227)

In the end, Lourdes has one person to witness to her private journeys: Jorge. Okay, so he's dead. But he uses his last communication with her to say that he knows, and that he's taking the knowledge of her life with him as he moves on.