Make your own free website on
A novel by Ricardo Menendez

Ediciones Universal, 1997

English language summary.

In this novel you will find everything that defines the contemporary Cuban experience: revolt, governmental repression, official dogmatismo, generalized intransigence, santería, exile, rediscovery of the ignored past, and isolation in one's own country where knowledge becomes a liberating or dominating instrument.

Confused and frightened, a young Cuban steals away from the island "in the most fragile of the boats that I had ever seen," … shedding his past like a snake sheds its skin. Shaking with fear, cold and hunger, our hero flees from anything and everything; from the "changing swirl of a hypertensive country … and from a pregnant teenager - quaking with fear at her communist father - that was rewarded in a sleepy and faded sex encounter after been waiting for four hours in front of a dirty inn."

Full of illusions and prejudices, and with the fervor of a enraptured Muslim in his first trip to Mecca, our young hero arrives in Miami, the center of his universe, "because all Cubans, whether they wanted or not, end up living in Miami, physically or mentally, because Cuba is preserved in Miami with all its defects, virtues and the prolonged inconsistency of our antagonistic loyalties."

And a new stage of his existence begins to unfold in which he constantly contrasts and compares the new reality that freely embraces him with the still heavy presence of the past that he thinks he has left behind until, unbidden, the nightmares return.

The magnificent irony is that he discovers in Miami the Cuba that he never got to know in the island, especially the mysterious labyrinths of the Cuban popular deities (orichas). Guiding without proselytizing on this journey is Facundo, one of the most striking in a rich array of characters: "ñáñigo of book and knife, son and grandson of obones, marked (rayáo) in Carraguao at eleven… ". With Facundo's help, he is better able to understand his own country and ultimately his own life.

After a few months of sweet placidness in the Miami of his dreams, he is entangled in other's people webs, the horizons close in on him almost unnoticeably and the nightmares return in various disguises -alternately tantalizing and horrific.

Possibly nothing you have read about Cuba has prepared you for this metaphorical and at the same time very real trip in which reality and fiction are so tightly interlaced that perhaps only the African gods (orichas) can fully comprehend. And also you will experience that particular way Cubans have, on both sides of the Straits of Florida, to complicate history in increasing staccato until it hurts.

[From the Back Cover - Publisher's note]

Home | Spanish excerpts | English summary | Reviews | The Author | Purchase.