Urban Borderlands is a community-based research seminar integrating academic and experiential learning in which students document the history and development of Cambridge and Somerville’s Latino communities.  Since 2001, successive cohorts of Urban Borderlands students have designed and conducted ethnographic research documenting why and how various Latino communities—Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadorans, Brazilians and other Central and South Americans—first arrived in the areas adjacent to Tufts; how, over time, they have organized themselves economically, socially, politically, and culturally; and the many ways they have contributed to the richness of their city’s rich and diverse social fabric.

Being newcomers to the area compared to earlier groups of immigrants, very little research on Latinos/as in Somerville/Cambridge has been done and even less has been published, so student research has necessarily been based on interviews with residents and community leaders.  Research topics and methodologies have been selected and designed in collaboration with organizations working with immigrant communities. In 2002, Tufts students seeking to document the history of the Latino community in Cambridge worked alongside high school volunteers from the Cambridge-based Concilio Hispano’s youth program Ahora.  Since 2003 student research has focused on Somerville’s Latino communities, designed in collaboration with Somerville agencies.  In 2003 and 2004 the project partner was the Welcome Project’s youth program, whose high school student volunteers served as community guides and interpreters, and assisted in the interviews.  In 2008 Urban Borderlands students focused their research on Latino arts and cultural production in Somerville, which brought them into contact with arts-oriented organizations such as East Somerville Main Streets and Centro Presente’s Pintamos Nuestro Mundo. In 2010 Urban Borderlands students are partnering with the Somerville Community Corporation’s Community Corridor Project, assisting with the SCC’s efforts to preserve Somerville’s economic and cultural diversity by documenting immigrant use of space in Union Square and adjacent neighborhoods.

Urban Borderlands student reports, which are available to the public (see links below) have benefitted the public in multiple ways.  For example, in 2004, the City of Cambridge dedicated a square to a Latino/a resident (the first time a Latino/a had been so honored): Columbia Road’s Doña Marta Morales Square; the report prepared in 2002 by Urban Borderlands students Andrew Hara, Ariana Flores, Galen Maze and Radhika Takkar was instrumental in documenting the history and importance of Columbia Road’s Puerto Rican community.  In 2005 the Cambridge Health Alliance created an intralink to the Urban Borderlands reports so that their employees would have access to the reports. UB student Sebastian Chaskel’s 2005 project on the religious beliefs and traditions of Salvadoran immigrants from the town of Yuquaquín became the basis for Chaskel’s 2006 exhibit at the Somerville Museum; which in turn, paved the way for the 2007 Sister City agreement between the mayors of Somerville and Yuquaquín, El Salvador.

As of 2010, 45 reports on various aspects of Latinos/as life in Somerville and Cambridge have been produced (see list below), and are available to the public at http://sites.tufts.edu/dca/community-history-reports/.

Urban Borderlands students have also experimented with different ways of making their work accessible to the community.  In 2003 eight Tufts students produced digital stories articulating their experiences from personal perspectives; these can be viewed at:


In 2004 Urban Borderlands students created websites summarizing their research reports; these websites can be viewed at: http://ase.tufts.edu/anthropology/faculty/pacini/students/welcome%20project%202004/index.htm

2010 students will be blogging about their work on the Community Corridor Project, and at the end of the semester, will upload selected materials to SCC interactive community map.



“The Evolution of the Latino Community in Cambridge, Massachusetts” by Andrew Hara, Ariana Flores, Galen Maze and Radhika Thakkar, Spring 2002

“The Brazilian Immigrant Experience: A Study on the Evolution of a Brazilian Community in Somerville and the Greater Boston Area” by Daniel Becker, Fall 2006


“From Yucuaiquín to Somerville: Religious Beliefs and Traditions of a Transnational Community” by Sebastián Chaskel, Fall 2004

“Religion and Community among Somerville Latinos” by Spencer Hickock with Vicente Cruz, Fall 2004

“Christian Latinos in Cambridge: Communities of Faith that Rise Above” by Kerry Biggs, Spring 2003

“Hispanic America: Systemic Poverty & the Evangelical Church in Cambridge, MA” by Elizabeth Butler, Spring 2003

Business and Economic Concerns

“Concerns of the Latino Business Community in Somerville, Mass.” by Dalia Palchik, Fall 2004

“Latina Buisness Owners in Cambridge, MA” by Meredith Green, Spring 2003

“The Latino Business Community in Somerville, MA” by David Pistrang and Emily Chasan, Fall 2003

“Latinos in the Economy of Cambridge” by Rachel Long and Richard Nightingale, Spring 2002

Sports, Arts, Culture

“Painting, Singing and Dancing Ourselves: The Role of Artistic Production in Young Latinos’ Development in Somerville” by Juliana Slocum, Fall 2008

“Bridges and Barriers: Latino Visual Artistic Expression in Somerville, MA” by Julia Mitarotondo, Fall 2008

“Bringing Culture to the Streets: Community Development through Art in East Somerville” by Anna Pierson, Fall 2008

“Sounding out Identity:  The Place of Female Brazilian Singers in Greater Somerville” by Caitlin Felsman, Fall 2008

‘Jogo de Capoeira’: The Dance-Fight Game from Brazil to Somerville” by Namibia Lebron-Torres, Fall 2008

“This is my Language: Agency, Identity and Community among Latino/a artists in Somerville” by Jessie Sofio, Fall 2008

“Reinventing Tradition: The Music and Dance of Latin America in Somerville, MA” by Sarah Driscoll, Fall 2008

“Latin Dance in Somerville: Examining Dance Through The Lens of Space, Community, and Social Relations” by Julia Schiff, Fall 2008

“Making Music to Make a Home: The Roles of Brazilian Music in Somerville”, by Abigail Burg, Fall 2008

“For the love of the Game: Latino Soccer Leagues in Somerville, Massachusetts” by Joel Cohen, Fall 2003

“Latino Cultural Expression in Cambridge” by Brigid Brannigan, L. Sean Kennedy, and Annery Miranda, Spring 2002

“La Quinceañera: Performances of Race, Culture, Class, and Religion in the Somerville Community” by Sara Arcaya, Fall 2004

“Self-Representation and Community Building: Latino Artistic Expression in Cambridge, MA” Chinar Mahadkar, Spring 2003

Political and Civic Engagement

“A History of Human and Civil Rights in the Somerville Latino Community” by Lindsey Nicholson and Adrienne Van Nieuwenhuizen, Fall 2004

“The Movers and Shakers of Cambridge, Massachusetts” by John Keogh and Kathleen Flahive, May 2002

“On Common Ground: Latino Immigrant Community-Building in Somerville”by Nora Martin-Cooley, Fall 2003

“Political Participation within the Latino Community of Somerville” by Yanelly Molina, Fall 2004

“Centro Presente: Building Community and Awareness of Rights among the Latin American Immigrant Population in Massachusetts” by Shoshana Grossman-Crist, Fall 2006.

Health, Education and Family Issues

“Youth Programs in Somerville,” by Avanti Taneja, 2003.

“Change and Challenge in the Education System: Latino Students in Somerville” by Marcelo Norsworthy, Fall 2006.

“Somerville Women’s Stories” by Rebecca Hayes, Fall 2006.

“English Language Acquisition: The Opportunities and Experience of Somerville Latino Community”by Lerome Lesser, Fall 2003

“Salvadorans in Somerville: Changes in Family Structure and Gender Roles among Salvadoran Immigrants” by Cecilia Dos Santos and Lexie McGovern, Fall 2003

“Speaking in Tongues: Latinos, Medical Interpreting, and Translation Issues in Somerville” by Julia Goldberg and Leah Rogers, Fall 2004

“Cambridge Youth Organizations: Where do Latino Youth fit in?” by Marisa Romo, Spring 2003

“The Latino Oral History Project: Health Care for Latinos in Cambridge, MA” by Casey Rebholz, Spring 2003

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