"Dreaming in Cuban," Vocabulary from Book 1: Ordinary Seductions

July 1, 2013
"Dreaming in Cuban" is Cristina Garcia's multigenerational saga which encompasses love and madness, religion and politics and everything in-between.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Book 1: Ordinary Seductions, Book 2: Imagining Winter, Book 3: The Languages Lost
The neighborhood committee has voted her little brick-and-cement house by the sea as the primary lookout for Santa Teresa del Mar. From her porch, Celia could spot another Bay of Pigs invasion before it happened.
A radio announcer barks fresh conjectures about a possible attack and plays a special recorded message from El Li'der: “Eleven years ago tonight, companeros, you defended our country against American aggressors.
Celia played the piano once and still exercises her hands, unconsciously stretching them two notes beyond an octave.
She nestles her grandson beneath a frayed blanket on her bed and kisses his eyes closed.
Jorge’s letter arrived that morning, as if his prescience extended even to the irregular postal service between the United States and Cuba.
Celia is astonished by the words, by the disquieting ardor of her husband’s last letters.
Her Jorge did not resemble the huge, buoyant man on the ocean, the gentleman with silent words she could not understand.
She considers the vagaries of sports, the happenstance of El Li'der, a star pitcher in his youth, narrowly missing a baseball career in America.
They feared that the Frenchman’s restless style might compel her to rashness, but Celia hid her music to La Soiree dans Grenade and played it incessantly while Jorge traveled.
Felicia set aside pails of them but selected only one, a mother-of-pearl shell, a baroque Spanish fan with which later to taunt her suitors.
When they returned, it was like an undersea cave, blanched by the ocean.
Dried algae stuck to the walls and the sand formed a strange topography on the floors.
toasted corn, pennies, and an aromatic cigar for Saint Lazarus, protector of paralytics; coconut and bitter kola for Obatala, King of the White Cloth; roasted yams, palm wine, and a small sack of salt for Oggun, patron of metals.
“Herminia has told us of your dystopia.”
Lourdes is pleased with her uniform’s implicit authority, with the severity of her unadorned face and blunt, round nose.
She imagines her footprints sinking invisibly through the streets and the sidewalks, below the condensed archaeology of the city to underground plains of rich alluvial clay.
They multiplied prodigiously, hung abundantly from the trees, crowded the skies until they were redolent of yeast.
Now the extra weight did not alter her rhythmical gait, but men’s eyes no longer pursued her curves.
Lourdes did not battle her cravings; rather, she submitted to them like a somnambulist to a dream.
Her father had been a fastidious man, impeccable, close-shaven, with razor-sharp creases pressed into his trousers.
Her father had been a fastidious man, impeccable, close-shaven, with razor-sharp creases pressed into his trousers.
For her father, conquering the microbios required unflagging vigilance.
“They’re dangerous subversives, red to the bone!”
Mom thinks they’re morbid.
She said that artists are a bad element, a profligate bunch who shoot heroin.
Soon she was a fragile pile of opaque bones, with yellowed nails and no monthly blood.
They examined her through monocles and magnifying glasses, with metal instruments that embossed her chest and forearms, thighs and forehead with a blue geometry.
They prescribed vitamins and sugar pills and pills to make her sleep, but Celia diminished, ever more pallid, in her bed.
They dug up the front yard for buried maledictions but found nothing.
Their driver, a balding man with gently serrated teeth, shakes Celia’s hand with fingers the texture of cork.
Her mother-in-law, who had a fleshy-tipped nose and a pendulous, manly face, snatched the flower from Celia’s ear and crushed it in her hand.
During the first months of their marriage, he called Celia every night, his gentle voice assuaging her.
“You won’t be needing this anymore,” she said, clutching a cream linen suit, which hung better on the wire hanger than on her desiccated frame.
She would not abandon a daughter to this life, but train her to read the columns of blood and numbers in men’s eyes, to understand the morphology of survival.
She cannot persuade Felicia to take off her nightgown, to allow light in the tenebrous house.
“Light infiltrates."
She sends the twins to the bodega with an empty can and the last of her monthly coupons.
I think of everyone who might be awake with me— insomniacs, thieves, anarchists, women with children who drowned in their baths.
My vision is so accustomed to a shifting horizon, to the metamorphoses of ocean and clouds, that to see such a mass of rock, immovable against the sky, was astonishing.
Everything looks antiquated, like the five-and-dime counters in New York.
Lourdes abhors ambiguity.
The next day, Lourdes works extraconscientiously, determined to prove to herself that her business acumen, at least, is intact.
She twisted free from his grip and charged him so abruptly that he fell back against the vestibule wall.
Jorge del Pino chides gently.
Felicia remembers how when she was in grammar school the paraphernalia of faith had proved more intriguing than its over-wrought lessons.
She marveled over how he’d been shot through with arrows and left for dead, how he’d survived his murder only to be beaten to death by the Roman Emperor’s soldiers and buried in the catacombs.
Felicia went with Hugo Villaverde to the Hotel Inglaterra, an ornate wedding cake of an edifice opposite the Parque Central.
Instead, she scolds the coconuts one by one as if they were errant children.
Sometimes nothing will rouse her from her bed, from a somnolence that coats the very air she breathes.
During his presentation, a torrential rainstorm fell and the black sounds of the duende shivered in the air with mystery and anguish and death.

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