In their works, Zoe Valdes and Heberto Padilla explore the theme of asking and giving. In particular, they show how people can be asked to sacrifice their lives for the sake of other individuals or some noble ideals. One can analyze this theme by focusing on the protagonist of Zoe Valdes’ novel I Gave You All I Had. Cuca Martinez dedicates her entire life to her lover, her daughter, and her country, post-revolutionary Cuba. However, it turns out that she gets nothing in return. Zoe Valdes and Heberto Padilla show that such sacrifices are seldom appreciated.
Cuca Martinez is a person who is willing to give her life to her lover Juan, who is also known as Uan, even though he decided to leave her at the time when Cuba was passing through a period of the crisis caused by the revolution. When he returns after many years of absence, Cuca is still able to love him. However, he thinks more about the dollar banknote, which he gave to her at the time of his departure (Valdes 170). This dollar is so important to him because it contains the key to the bank account opened in a Swiss bank. Cuca does not know about it, and she thinks that her lover is “either drunk or delirious” since he talks only about this banknote when they finally reunite (Valdes 170).
Additionally, the main character dedicates her life to her daughter, Maria. However, Maria becomes obsessed with communist ideology. Moreover, she becomes “ashamed of her family” (Valdes, 64). She does not understand why her mother cannot accept the existing political regime. Juan and Maria are the key values that help Cuca retain her will to live, but these people do not appreciate her sacrifice. Certainly, Juan and Maria do not openly ask Cuca to dedicate her life to them. However, they certainly expect her to act in this way.
Similar issues are discussed by Heberto Padilla in his poem In Difficult Times. This author speaks about people who were expected to dedicate their lives to the Cuban Revolution. This author says that many people were asked to take their “tine and join it to history” (Padilla). In other words, they were supposed to sacrifice their time and labor in order to make the Cuban Revolution possible. Moreover, they were expected to undergo hardships for the sake of this ideal.
Finally, they were not allowed to express their dissatisfaction with the policies of people like Fidel Casto. In fact, this behavior was often compared to treason. So, Heberto Padilla describes people who were asked to sacrifice everything that they had. Moreover, many of them were willing to do so because they believed that the Cuban Revolution could improve society.
This argument can be applied to the experiences of Cuca Martinez. For instance, this character has to struggle with poverty and the absence of essential goods, such as soap. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about the time, which is known as the Special Period, during which the Cuban economy collapsed. The main character stayed in Cuba since she believed in her future of this country. Nevertheless, this trust was betrayed since the government completely suppressed any form of criticism.
The chosen poem and the novel show that many people are able to give up virtually everything for the sake of other people or some higher ideals. Cuca Martinez is one of such people. However, her expectations are bitterly disappointed because other people did not appreciate her sacrifices. This is the main tragedy of this person.
Padilla, Heberto. “In difficult times.” Smaller Adventure. 1993. Web.
Valdes, Zoe. I Gave You All I Had, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2000. Print.