Casa Guadalupana is a house of hospitality rooted in the spirit of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement she helped found. Ask any of the 156 people that have stayed there since 2004, and they’ll say it’s also a family.
Yanelquis (Yana) Acosta and husband Adalberto (Berto) Torres have experienced the support of the Casa Guadalupana family and are giving back by coming to Casa and helping in any way they can. Acosta also serves on the home’s board of directors.
Originally from Cuba, the couple came to Minnesota in 2008 from Venezuela, where they were both working as physicians.
“We had the support also of all the friends and people that stayed here, they all gave us their support,” Acosta said. “It felt to us like a family. We had dinner together, we prayed in the evening together.”
They made the move to the United States because of difficult economic situations in both Venezuela and Cuba, even for doctors. They have family in Cuba that they help support.
They chose to stay with a cousin in Minnesota instead of relatives in Florida because they believed it would be easier to learn English in Minnesota.
Realizing they would not be able to work as physicians in the United States without taking the medical board tests, Acosta and Torres tried to find part-time work while they studied for the exams.
They were told they were over-qualified for every job they applied for. Then, after a month, the cousin they were staying with landed a new job and moved to Texas. The two were now jobless and homeless.
A new home
A friend, a fellow Cuban who worked for Catholic Charities, introduced them to Casa Guadalupana founder Kim Anderson. They explained their situation to Anderson and were welcomed with open arms.
“Without Casa everything would be different,” Acosta said.
“When we came to Casa Guadalupana and we had the opportunity to study for 10 hours every day, for us that was like a dream come true,” she said. “We were able to pass the exams after two and a half years. But, without the support of Casa, it would have taken five or six years.”
A month into their stay at Casa, Acosta’s aunt, whom Acosta was very close to, died in Cuba. “My aunt was like a mom to me . . . and that was a really bad time for me. But I?felt super support, even though I had only been here a short time.”
Anderson said Acosta’s “strong faith in that circumstance when she couldn’t be with her family was a tremendous inspiration to all of us here.”
“[Torres and Acosta] are probably on the higher socio-economic possibility end than a lot of the families that come here, but their obstacles were no less intense, no less real or no less difficult,” Anderson added.
Torres passed the exams first and started a residency at Smiley’s Family Medicine Clinic in Minneapolis, one of eight residency programs offered by the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Just as Acosta passed her exams, she found out she was pregnant. Their son Ricky was born five months ago.
Since they moved out of Casa, they keep coming to the home to help however they can. “I’m trying to give to families here all that Casa has been to me,” Acosta said.
“Casa was lifesaving for us, and it will be for many other families.”