Modern Languages and Literatures Department
BA in Modern Languages and Literatures
This project attempts to explore the idea that the combination of tragedy and humor in Cuban and Cuban-American literature is a form of “choteo” or “no tomar nada en serio,” which demonstrates a coping strategy used by Cubans during hard times. In the case of Ena Lucía Portela's Cien botellas en una pared, and Roberto Fernandez's Raining Backwards, I believe that the two authors use his and her own personal insight into a Cuban's life during the Cuban Revolution of the 60's and the Special Period of the 90's, and that those personal experiences are reflected throughout the novels by the use of bizarre characters and contradictory circumstances.
In Cien botellas en una pared, Portela's unexpected addition of comedic circumstances and playful word choice to otherwise uncomfortable situations can make the reader go from cringing to laughing within the same paragraph. I believe that Portela uses this strategy in order to talk about the hardships during the Special Period, especially the unfortunate circumstances surrounding women, such as the unequal balance of power between sexes.
In Raining Backwards, the outrageous and comical stories told by exiled Cuban-Americans are a combination of reality and fantasy. As the novel continues, these stories become more fantasy than reality, further suggesting that the author has his own mixed emotions about the circumstances surrounding Cuba's history. I believe that Fernández chose to write this novel in English instead of his native Spanish, further suggesting that assimilation into the dominant American culture is inevitable.