Minnesota Swedes Raising Cane

Marilyn McGriff
Saturday, January 25, 2020 - 10:00am to 12:00pm
Washburn Library, 5244 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

In the early years of the 20th century, a Swedish-American doctor invested in a large tract of land in eastern Cuba. Using his doctor's office on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis as a headquarters, he promoted the sale of land parcels to his fellow Swedish-Americans. In his promotional pamphlets, written in Swedish, Dr. Lind promised cheap land, a warm healthful climate and the opportunity to harvest crops year round. A number of farm families from the Upper Midwest decided to participate in this adventure, becoming part of a Swedish-American settlement in Cuba. However, because of turbulent political and economic times, by 1920 most of the Swedish-American-Cubans had returned to the U.S. Their experiences, as recorded in reminiscences, stories and photos. gathered from their dedcendants, illustrate the drama, romance, intrigue and adventure of the Swedes Raising Cane in Cuba.

Marilyn is a local historian who began researching the topic of the Swedish settlement in Cuba when she served as the director of the Isanti County Historical Society during the 1980s. While living in the Cambridge area, she researched many topics relating to Swedish immigration and cultural traditions. Her research found its way into public presentations, several books and portrayals of local historical characters (whom she says, "stepped out of the archives"). For 15 years she also published an annual history/tourism-related newspaper called The Isanti County Traveler. Then in 2016 she published her one and only novel that she calls "a local history mystery." The title is Caught in the Lye and it features lutefisk, of course. Now, living in the Twin Cities, she is currently assisting with the publication of a pictorial history of  Saint Paul's Swede Hollow. "But," she says, "I can't seem to get away from the Cuba story." Two recent trips to Cuba and new contacts that often appear "out of the blue" continue to add additional dimensions to the story. She is hopeful that a musical called Sugar, based on the story, will one day find its way to the stage. Meanwhile, she perseveres in playing the nyckelharpa, a Swedish folk instrument, and in perfecting her pie-baking skills.