What is legitimized and normalized by the discrimination and institutionalized violence the de la Cruz family is forced to face? Miguelito might survive in his new adopted country, but at what price?
The novel opens with the death of Manuel de la Cruz who is wasting away from dementia. He once was a henchman for the brutal Cuban dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. As he lays dying, he becomes lucid enough during the last minutes of life to be haunted not just by the spirits of his victims, but also by the orisha deity Ogg(m of the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santeria. Although the story focuses on his son Miguelito, the trajectory of Manuel’s life is also explored. Specifically, his complicity with torture prior to the Castro 1959 revolution, his counterrevolutionary terrorist activities after the change of government, his fleeing from the island, his acts of murder, and his abusive attempts to make his sensitive son Miguelito into a macho. Miguelito’s story begins with being an “illegal immigrant,” living in the shadows of whiteness. We explore his life growing up in the slums of New York City, the toll poverty takes on immigrant children, the violence he encountered for being a Latino, lessons he learns from a gay neighbor on how to be a gentlemen during his first date with Silvia, the juxtaposition of going to a Catholic school by day and worshipping African gods by night, and his ultimate success within the academy as a professor, even though he was never accepted as an equal by his white colleagues.
“Miguelito’s Confession is a goldmine of knowledge on a variety of issues, including Yorùbá gods, Cuban history and politics, and prejudice against minorities in the United States. I was overjoyed to find Yorùbá deities like Obatalá and Olodumare in the book, as I had grown up learning about them. Seeing them in action in the autobiographical account made them seem more genuine.” – Portland Book Review