Title of the Work

The Lonely Crossing of Juan Cabrera

Author

J. Joaquin Fraxedas

Nationality/Ethnic Background

Cuban

Pertinent Biographical Information

J. Joaquin Fraxedas, the author of The Lonely Crossing of Juan Cabrera, was born in Cuba but immigrated to the US at the age of ten. He lived in Michigan before moving to Florida where he attend the University of Florida on an academic scholarship. While in college he studied creative writing under authors Harry Crews, Clara Rising and James Dickey, the authors of The Gospel Singer, In The Season of the Wild Rose, and Deliverance respectively. He graduated with a BA in Philosophy before attending law school, which he graduated from in 1975 with a Doctorate in Jurisprudence. He has practiced law since.

Literary Historical Period/Movement and Pertinent Background

Contemporary

Genre and Sub-genres

Short Historical Fiction

Major Characters, Their Relationships, Their Conflicts

Juan Cabrera:
Juan is friends with Raul and Andres. Carmen was a old time lover. He stuggles against the elements of nature and the communist reign of Cuba to reach America and freedom. He also fights loneliness, and an internal struggle at his lackluster courage.
Raul:
Raul is friends with Jaun and Andres. He joins Jaun in his struggle against the elements of nature and the communist reign of Cuba in attempt to reach freedom, but is killed in a struggle with a shark.
Andres:
Andres is friends with Jaun and Raul. He has a daughter named Margarita in America. He joins Jaun in his struggle against the elements of nature and the communist reign of Cuba in attempt to reach freedom, but is killed in a struggle with a communist gunboat.
Alberto:
Alberto is a pilot who works with Carmen to find Jaun. He struggles with internal guilt at having an easy escape from Cuba, then from the bay of pigs. To assuage his guilt, he looks for rafters in the sea.
Carmen:
Carmen is Jaun's old lover who escaped from Cuba and currently resides in America. While in Cuba, she had an internal struggle concerning the communist party. She was loyal to Castro, but her experience with Cuban exiles threw her into turmoil.

Brief Plot Summary

Juan Cabrera and two other men, Raul and Andres, escape from Cuba in 1990 while it is under Castro's control. They construct a raft of three inner tubes, and set off on their journey to escape to Florida. They encounter a Cuban Navy patrol boat, which kills Andres, a hurricane, hunger, a shark which kills Raul, hallucinations, before they are rescued near the shore by a refugee pilot. This Bay of Pigs veteran spots the raft from the air and radios back Juan's coordinates before crashing due to fuel starvation.

Motifs (Recurring Images, Ideas, Figures of Speech, Symbols, Colors) & Their Thematic Significance

Freedom - Juan and his companions plan to leave Cuba and the regime set up there for a life of freedom in America, and this motif serves as the driving force behind all their actions and determinations.

Overcoming Fear - The journey of this novel is one of escape and bravery, away from the oppression of a terrible regime. Juan, Andres, and Raul all took a great risk engaging in this journey, both with the fear of being caught and punished or the fear of the high seas and the danger it presents.

Friendship - Friendship is a driving force between the three men and what occupies Juan's thoughts, if not relationships versus friendship. He takes Raul and Andres with him and tries to provide for and protect them on the journey. They both meet terrible fates, however, one with shark attack and one with a rifle shot. Their deaths devastated Juan and depressed him greatly, questioning the purpose and progress of the journey.

Determination - This and perseverance tie in strongly with each other, especially after Juan is faced with the deaths of his two compatriots. He must find meaning in the journey aside from just helping his friends; he has to push on through much adversity and danger from all directions.
Perseverance - See Above

Hope - Hope inspires Juan once he has powered through all the adversity dealt to him, making him more apt to survive and make it to Miami. He foresees a better life, success, survival, and these dreams give him hope and the strength to survive.
Negrura - A spanish term for inner demon. Juan struggles with his negrura throughout the novel before he moves forward to eventually be rescued and succeed in his journey to a new country.

Other Significant Thematic Elements (Significant Character's Names, Significant Quotations, Significant Actions/Events)

"Solid gray curtains of rain came toward them from the southeast. As each curtain arrived over the raft, it enclosed them in a watery cocoon..." This quote signifies the theme, "After the pain of death and darkness, there comes a new beginning." Juan and Raul face this storm and brave it in the face of this dark time in pursuit of better times on the raft.

There is a repeated use of the term "Negrura", the term for an inner demon. This follows the theme that "One must defeat their inner demons to move forward." Juan was held back by his "negrura", his inner problems, and they kept him from advancing in life until he showed bravery in the face of defeat and showed his courage in the journey to America.

"And when the controller added 'Welcome to the U.S.A.'' he was filled with great emotion and got such a big knot in his throat that he could not acknowledge the controller's instructions for a couple of minutes." This quote, after the flight he had to do to fly the plane into America for the commandant, shows that after great stress and struggle, reward is given.

Major Themes

After the pain of death and darkness, there comes a new beginning.
Obstacles must be overcome for a reward.
Before one can gain anything, they must lose something.
One must look inside themselves for real strength.
Hope is a strong motivator, but the loss of it can be catastrophic.
One must defeat their inner demons to move forward.