Citizen Cárdenas: A Novel - PDF free download eBook

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  • Published: 23.01.2019
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Introduction

Jesus "Gato" Cárdenas is not your average, well-settled Cuban refugee. For years, his life in Chicago has been precarious, at best living in rooming houses and transient hotels. His...

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Details of Citizen Cárdenas: A Novel

Original Title
Citizen Cárdenas: A Novel
First Published
2016 year
Edition Format
Kindle Edition
Number of Pages
260 pages
Book Language
English
Ebook Format
PDF, EPUB

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Some brief overview of this book

Jesus "Gato" Cárdenas is not your average, well-settled Cuban refugee. For years, his life in Chicago has been precarious, at best living in rooming houses and transient hotels. His monthly government checks aren't enough to live on, so he works odd jobs paid under the table, panhandles, and sells treasures others have left in the alley.

When the Social Security Administra Jesus "Gato" Cárdenas is not your average, well-settled Cuban refugee. For years, his life in Chicago has been precarious, at best living in rooming houses and transient hotels. His monthly government checks aren't enough to live on, so he works odd jobs paid under the table, panhandles, and sells treasures others have left in the alley.

When the Social Security Administration mistakenly declares him dead, he cannot dispute their claim because he has no photo ID. So for months he sleeps on Wicker Park benches until one day he runs across the street to show Alexia and George Demas the crumpled denial of benefits notice he received from Social Security. The Demases, who first met Gato years earlier, come to his aid.

George's savvy in dealing with red tape gets his benefits reinstated; Alexia, filled with compassion lets him stay in their apartment until he gets his back pay and can afford a room of his own. An unlikely familial relationship develops between Gato and the Demases, beyond his calling them Mami and Dadi. He is invited for holiday dinners, backyard barbecues and chess matches.

But this new friendship does not diminish Gato's struggles with illness, alcoholism, and the denial of other government services because of his lack of official ID. To lessen Gato's problems the Demases try to help Gato establish his identity. But in doing so, a mystery is laid bare.

Is Gato an early refugee of the Castro regime who then fought in Vietnam, or is he one of Castro's undesirables released to the United States during the Mariel boatlift of the early 80s? Gato's struggles for survival are not isolated. Time and again the rooming houses or transient hotels he lives in are closed down to be converted to more expensive housing, leaving Gato and others homeless.

In one case, Gato is living at the Cortez Arms Hotel, a fancy sounding place that in fact is a deteriorating, vermin-infested SRO whose owner allows illegal activities to flourish, knowing the city will close it down because of complaints neighboring residents will make to the local alderman. In another situation Gato is evicted not because he has done anything wrong, but simply because the owners want more money than Gato and other tenants pay monthly. Through these ups and downs, Alexia and George Demas, hardworking, second-generation Greeks, continue to help Gato.

Readers of Citizen Cárdenas may wonder what motivates them to help someone so different from themselves, especially one not always forthcoming. Is it because Gato seems to have a web of connections to them? Is it their Greek Orthodox religious convictions; their justice-oriented, community-based political involvement that connected them to Gato in the first place; or is it George Dema's fascination with wily Fidel Castro, who for decades had befuddled one US administration after another?

The story unfolds around a series of transcribed tapes Gato makes after George asks him to record his life story. George and Alexia fill in most of the gaps, but others do as well, including an aunt still in Cuba, and Memo Rodriguez whose ties to George, Alexia, and Gato are as surprising as his poetry is revealing. Like Gato himself, Citizen Cárdenas is a salsa of pathos and humor, a story of friends fighting for survival, dignity, and a sense of community.


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