American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

DREAMING IN CUBAN (1992). The sea, like Cuba, connects the lives of three generations of women in this novel by Christina Garcia (1958- ), which spans, politically, the Batista and the Castro years and, geographically, Cuba and the United States. Described in the novel as an “island-colony,” Cuba is rendered vulnerable by the sea, which the pro-Castro Celia also blames for stimulating restlessness in her family and for separating her from her anti-Castro husband and daughter, who have escaped to New York with her beloved granddaughter, Pilar.

However, throughout Dreaming in Cuban the sea is referred to not only realistically and historically, bringing diverse cultures to Cuba and uniting them by touching all of their shores, but also surrealistically and magically, prompting imagination, memory, and desire. Thus, while Celia serves Castro by keeping a lookout for foreign invaders from her beach house at Santa Teresa del Mar, she envisions her dead husband walking across the sea to return to her. Part of Pilar’s legacy from her grandmother is her love of the sea and the smoothness of pearls. At the novel’s conclusion, when Celia takes her last swim out to sea, her death by water restores her to the romantic Cuba of her youth—lovely and liberating. [See also CARIBBEAN LITERATURE OF THE SEA]

Elizabeth Schultz