Like many other Cuban families who left Cuba after Castro came to power in the early 1960s, Marisella Veiga and her loved ones came to the U.S. and first settled in Miami, Florida. But her father was seeking a place to live where it would be easier to find a job, and that brought the Veigas to Minnesota, far from the warm climate and familiar language and foods.
With the help of a host family, the Veigas settled in, and her father, who first came to the States with just 14 cents to his name, got a job as an assistant comptroller at a meat distributing company in St. Paul.
How the Veigas coped and maneuvered through their new life in a strange and cold land is the focus of “We Carry Our Homes With Us,” an engaging memoir filled with anecdotes about the family and their close circle of Cuban friends in their upper Midwest community during those years in the 1960s and 70s, written by daughter Marisella Veiga.
“I consider myself a Cuban from Minnesota,” Veiga told NBC News Latino, relating how she learned to ice skate before she spoke a word of English. Veiga was four when her family moved to Minnesota, and her parents raised her and her three siblings with the idea that they were going to adjust and not look back. Looking back, Veiga says, would have been too painful, thinking of what was lost and what could have been.
Close to 300 Cuban families had settled in Minnesota in the 1960s, most in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
“You had to adjust and my parents figured that our early, but the fortunate thing is we had a group of Cubans in Minnesota,” Veiga adds.
About 4,000 Cuban Americans currently live in the state, according to the U.S. Census.
"I want this book to be a voice for any immigrant who comes here. It’s an inside look at assimilation,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in a place, assimilation is a lifetime process.”
Marisella Veiga and her family moved back to Florida when she was a teenager, and she has moved around a lot ever since, settling for now as a writer and professor in northern Florida.
“I spent many years moving around and looking for home, that’s a part of what exiles do. And you want to know that feeling of being comfortable in a place,” she says. “But I figured out, and I say, that home is wherever you are and that you take it with you.”