Study Guide

Dreaming in Cuban Exile

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We'd like to suggest that you reach beyond the obvious definition of exile as you explore this theme in Dreaming in Cuban. In addition to the political exile suffered by Lourdes and Pilar (and possibly Javier), there is also a sense of wandering or homelessness on the personal and familial levels. Even Celia, the staunchest of Cuban revolutionaries, feels the isolation and loneliness of being cast out or forgotten by the larger collective. Felicia's failure to thrive, despite finding her place in Herminia's religious community, may be due in part to an "internal exile": she doesn't fit into the Revolutionary plan for personal happiness. For those outside Cuba, exile goes one of two ways: the Puente family way or the Lourdes del Pino way. While Lourdes' forceful character allows her to adapt and thrive, that's not the case for Rufino and his family. Pilar is left somewhere in the middle, not really feeling at home in either place, or with either family. Exile, it seems, is an internal condition as well as a national one.

Questions About Exile

  1. How is exile defined over the course of the story? Does the definition change?
  2. In what ways does personal isolation and a sense of abandonment mirror political exile? How does it differ?
  3. Pilar realizes that she can never be fully herself in either Cuba or the U.S. What other characters find themselves caught between one world and another?
  4. Why does Pilar go along with Lourdes' plan to get Ivanito out of Cuba?

Chew on This

Ivanito's journey out of Cuba marks the beginning of a crisis of identity for Celia. She can no longer support the Revolution for the future of her family and she is left with only Luz and Milagro (the "Double Helix" twins) to "grandparent."

In García's Dreaming in Cuban, exiles come in a variety of categories and situations. Although the refugees from Cuba are the obvious focus of the work, there are groups in both the U.S. and Cuba who suffer alienation from the powers in control of individual destinies.

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