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As I have read and reread their books over the years, I have garnered an appreciation for the genre that flows so well through their culture. Beginning with One Hundred Years of Solitude fifty years ago, magical realism inserted into novels includes scenes such as blood flowing down the street, conversing with the spirits at a three-legged table, and the ashen remains of a man blowing north.
Prior to Castro's revolution, Cuba, Havana especially, rivaled Miami as a steamy vacation hotspot gateway to Latin America. In the s Celia del Pino falls for a Spanish guitarist named Gustavo who had come to Cuba to visit. Although married, he promises Celia that he would leave his wife and children should she decide to follow him to Spain; yet, Franco took over the Iberian Peninsula and the state of Cuban affairs deteriorated with the start of the worldwide depression, and Celia's dreams never materialized.
She ended up choosing the easy road and married Jorge del Pino, who would father her three children: Lourdes, Felicia, and Javier; however, her love for Gustavo never wavered, and on the eleventh of each month, Celia continued to write him a love letter for the next twenty five years.
As a result, it easily became apparent that she did not demonstrate love for her children fathered by a man other than Gustavo, and her relationships with them faltered long before they reached adulthood. Garcia tells this story from many points of view including Celia, Lourdes, Felicia, and their children Pilar and Ivanito.
Although a story of unfulfilled love, the novel centers around the revolution and how each member of the family copes with it.
Celia and her husband Jorge chose to remain in Cuba close to the sea because a Santera predicted that that is where she should live out her days. Felicia and her family stayed behind as well, yet, her children ended up in boarding school as their mother suffered from mental blackouts and could not properly care for them.
Lourdes as a result of her mother not loving her as a child fled to New York immediately and became the proprietress of the Yankee Doodle Bakery, a proud American and embarrassed when she saw a Cuban voicing their support of Castro. As the oldest grandchild, Pilar would have rather stayed behind in Cuba and ends up rebelling against her mother in similar ways that Lourdes acted out against Celia.
The family's history ended up cyclical in nature, as all roads lead back to Cuba by the sea. I am used to magical realism saturating the writing of Latina writers.
While this novel contains elements, it is not contained throughout.
Some instances include Lourdes communicating with her father Jorge long after his death, which I found touching, and Felicia turning an ex-husband into ashes with no recollections of her own.
The magical realism here is mainly in the form of the African Santeria religion found in Cuba, that Felicia was attracted to from the time she was a girl. The rest of the family found her to be crazy, but I thought that Felicia brought some character to the Cuban branch of the family, especially when her diet consisted solely of coconut ice cream and plantains.
Later, Pilar, who chose to be a painter, found Santeria attractive, and chose to follow some of its basic tenets as well. While not as obvious as magical realism found in other books that I have read, I did enjoy how magic brought this sometimes crazy family together during trying times.
Like Allende, Garcia's writing features strong female protagonists in a machismo culture in the forms of Lourdes, Felicia, Pilar, and to a certain extent Celia. All the women of the del Pino family exhibited strength even if they were said to be crazy by outsiders.
Reading a novel containing high levels of magical realism is always a joy for me, as I read fast to see what magic the author decides to employ next. Dreaming in Cuban has been a fun journey through 20th century Cuba, and I hope to read another of Garcia's books King of Cubawhich is said to feature both magical realism and cameo appearances by both members of the del Pino family and key figures in 20th century Latino culture.
As summer starts to wind down, rereading a favorite book of the magical realism genre is always a thrill as I rate Dreaming in Cuban 4 stars.Death is a multi-faceted subject and German cartoonist Eva Müller’s In The Future We Are Dead gives it the treatment it deserves.
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