Study Guide

Dreaming in Cuban Identity

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While it's true that this thematic thread is most thoroughly explored through Pilar's character in Dreaming in Cuban, we want to caution you not to overlook other members of her family who are continuously questing to figure out who they are and where they belong. Celia is a prime example. Even though she is a vigorous woman who has deep convictions and strong, embedded passions, she's still looking for something in her life. Felicia, of course, spends her entire ill-fated life trying to find her place in society and in her family. Even Jorge, flitting around the Beyond, is still jockeying for position and purpose in his family. Most of the characters find themselves resisting the external forces that would shape their lives for them. Pilar hates the idea that people she doesn't know can have a say in how she lives her life or what she thinks about. Lourdes refuses to allow her brutal experiences to thwart her desire for success in her new life. But those external forces are there and come in the form of family, the state (U.S. and Cuba), the patriarchy, religious and spiritual forces, and personal choices. Whether or not the characters acknowledge and work with these influences in productive ways is another story.

Questions About Identity

  1. How does Pilar characterize herself? Does she rely primarily on her internal resources to do this, or does she "borrow" from outside sources?
  2. What is the significance of Pilar's ability to dream in Spanish?
  3. How important is the assignment of identity from an external source, i.e. someone other than the person for whom the identity role is formed?
  4. How do familial roles influence the behavior and thoughts of the characters in this novel? In what ways do the characters defy these roles and embrace new ones? What are the consequences of this role-swapping?

Chew on This

The major characters in the book can't escape the defining influence of their home culture, no matter how far away they move from Cuba or how much they reject their early lives.

Although personal development is a key concern in García's work, political evolution plays a more important role in governing the lives of the characters.

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