Study Guide

Dreaming in Cuban Chapter 3: The House on Palmas Street

By Cristina García

Chapter 3: The House on Palmas Street

  • Celia thinks about her Spanish lover, Gustavo Sierra de Armas, as she waits for her grandchildren to get out of school in Havana.
  • Gustavo was a married man and a Spanish revolutionary—and Celia had it bad for him.
  • She'd met him at the photographic equipment shop where she worked. He wanted concealed cameras to document the revolution.
  • He bought Celia the pearl drop earrings that she wears every day. When he left her, Celia slipped into a deep depression.
  • She stayed in bed for months and basically shriveled up.
  • Her family goes to extremes to save her and finally brings in a santera to figure out what is going on with her.
  • The santera tells them that she has "a wet landscape in her palm" and that she will "survive the flames."
  • Which she does. Jorge comes courting her at this time and offers to marry her if Gustavo doesn't answer her letters.
  • Celia winds up writing letters to Gustavo for 25 years, but she doesn't send them. Instead, she wears the pearl earrings every day and marries Jorge.
  • Now, Celia collects Luz and Milagro (Felicia's daughters) and brings them to their home on Palmas Street. She recalls that the house used to belong to her evil mother-in-law.
  • She and Jorge lived in that house with his mother and sisters when they were first married. Celia's in-laws despised her.
  • It was a classic Cinderella story: they starved her when Jorge was away and generally mistreated her. Not so great, especially since Celia suffered from depression.
  • When Celia became pregnant, the misery increased. She determined to sail away to Spain to look for Gustavo if she had a boy.
  • But she had Lourdes instead. Celia did not take to her at all.
  • Back in the present timeline, Celia stays with Felicia and her girls overnight. In the morning, she heads downtown and makes the decision to work for the Cuban revolution till she dies.
  • Celia jumps on a work truck and spends the season cutting sugar cane to empower Cuba on the international market.
  • When she returns to Felicia, she can see that her daughter is succumbing to mental illness.
  • She decides to take Luz and Milagro and their brother Ivanito back to her house by the sea. Ivanito will not leave his mother.
  • We learn that their father was abusive and a player, leaving Felicia with syphilis at one point.
  • Celia realizes that she can't really mourn for Jorge, since he has been gone for a long time.
  • She ends her reflections by remembering something that Jorge told her about Pangaea, the supercontinent that existed before landmasses began to migrate.
  • Celia wonders if, in all that continental drifting, Cuba will be left behind.

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