In Dreaming in Cuban, both Celia and Lourdes fear that their lifetime of experiences—especially the tragic and painful parts—will be "swallowed by the earth" and never have any meaning. Pilar and Herminia feel rage over the loss of control of historical narrative. Why should they believe in cultural memories that ignore, exclude, or deny them? The desire to "know what happened" and to preserve experiences is at the center of a quest for truth: to know what really happened means validation of what these characters know to be true about themselves. The ability to know and to share is what allows Celia to let go of her illusory lover and Lourdes to move forward with helping Ivanito. In both cases, they get someone who can witness their struggles (Pilar and Jorge) and affirm the importance of their lives in history.
Questions About Memory & The Past
Why does Celia write to Gustavo but never send the letters? Why does she continue writing to him for so long, especially after she is married to Jorge?
Pilar seems disturbed by the stuff that isn't included in history books. Why would that be?
In this work, we often get the story of one event from different perspectives. How often do the different narratives support or confirm each other? Are there notable moments in which the versions differ wildly?
How do characters use memory to define themselves? In what ways do they use cultural rather than personal history to create their identities?
Chew on This
Celia is less afraid of death than of the loss of her identity and devaluation of her beliefs and experiences.
Pilar must return to Cuba to gain a less biased access to her family's past and to help her emerging identity form more completely.