Study Guide

Dreaming in Cuban Suffering

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The Del Pino family hasn't exactly cornered the market on suffering—we even see them acknowledging the greater horrors that happen every day around the world—but they do take their fair share of it in Dreaming in Cuban. Some of it is even quite extreme. Such hardship produces an array of outcomes for the characters and includes communing with the dead, writing (but never sending) letters to an ex-lover, becoming a pushy entrepreneur, running off to the mountains to die in ecstasy, enduring multiple breaks with reality, attempted murder/suicide (twice), raising pigeons, and learning to play bass guitar. This is not even an exhaustive list. For the characters, affliction takes many forms and is not always relieved or redemptive. The important thing is that such ordeals be remembered and validated, and that some day—maybe in the afterlife—they will become useful for something.

Questions About Suffering

  1. What constitutes suffering in García's work? Is physical suffering privileged over psychological torment (or vice versa)?
  2. How does Celia view hardship? In what ways is her philosophy about this different from Lourdes' or Pilar's?
  3. We get a very strong education in sorrow from this book, but what about happiness? What do we learn about fulfillment and contentment in this story?
  4. How do the characters in Dreaming in Cuban attempt to control or avoid suffering? What actually works for them?

Chew on This

Suffering in García's work is not meant to be redemptive. Rather, it often destroys and sometimes only exists to show how characters react to psychological or physical pain in their lives.

Pilar's forthright assessment of the hardships in Cuba (life is hard, but basic necessities are available) forces us to re-imagine our concepts of what necessity and adversity really are, on a global scale.

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