About The Institute 

With generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), City Lore, in partnership with the Bronx Music Heritage Center  and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, will offer a two-week Summer Scholar Institute (July 14th – July 27th, 2024) recommended for teachers of grades 4 – 12 (although teachers of younger students may apply). The Institute will focus on foundational humanities questions that are at the heart of the American immigration and migration experience – questions of belonging, identity, legal status, home, mutual aid, and community-building through an exploration of the everyday music, arts, foodways, dance, festival arts, and vernacular architecture.

Design by Glenn Able, Original Artwork by José Rodriguez

 The Institute Offers 

Somos Boricuas will offer K-12 teachers learning tools, resources, lesson ideas, historical and social content for teaching about immigration and migration experience of first and second generation Latin Americans, with a special focus on Puerto Rico.  It will also offer insights and classroom applications that summer scholars can adapt to their teaching of other recent migrant/immigrant cultures. This case study will bring to light enduring questions in American immigration history such as who belongs and who gets to decide. It also offers an opportunity to engage students in exploring their own ethnic and race-determined immigrant histories, and the many ways in which their families might have confronted and coped with questions of belonging, identity, rights and community as newcomers in a strange land.

Why the Arts?

Somos Boricuas focuses on the arts – music, dance, poetry, print making, festival arts, and vernacular architecture – because these art forms have enabled Puerto Ricans to build community in the U.S., stay connected to the island, and tell their migration story to themselves and others from the inside. The arts have and continue to enable Puerto Ricans and other migrants/immigrants to express their views and understanding of their experiences and history, educate their children about their unique histories and identities, and advocate for basic human rights such as education, health equity, safe housing, and rights of representation. Such applications of the arts as public markers and negotiators of community, space, language, human rights and resources are common among migrants and immigrants from across the globe, but especially salient in the case of Puerto Rico given its unique political status and the degree of cultural exchange between the island and the mainland. The two week institute is replete with immersive experiences for participating teachers  including fieldtrips to casitas (social clubs built in the style of Puerto Rican country houses on vacant  lots in the Bronx and East Harlem), visit to a print studio, lecture demos on bomba, plena and other Latin music forms, and foodways excursions.


Somos Boricuas grows out of City Lore’s 38 years of in-depth research and public programming with Puerto Rican as well as Latino music and cultures established by the late ethnomusicologist, Dr. Roberta Singer, Phd. City Lore programs have included Dos Alas which brought together Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians; the documentary From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale; Musica Tradicional on pan Latino music;  “Music from the Islands: Cuba, Puerto Rico and Manhattan”; and numerous in school artist residencies focusing on Latin American arts;  The Institute will use New York City’s Puerto Rican communities as a case study,  but will examine parallels to other cities with large Puerto Rican migrant populations, including Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Ohio, and San Francisco. The last two days of the Institute will also address the complex relationships – both social and artistic – between Puerto Ricans and the post-1965 Latin American immigrants from countries such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru.

City Lore has established collaborative partnerships with over a dozen Puerto Rican arts and education agencies throughout the city since our inception in 1985. Exploring enduring humanities questions through the lens of everyday art forms is City Lore’s proven area of knowledge, experience, and expertise. Graduates of previous programs always remark on the value for their students of approaching social science and humanities ideas about law, geography, politics, and human rights through something as concrete and immediate as the lyrics of a song, the messages of a wall mural, or the mutual aid provided through community gardens or public spaces for mourning and celebrating in community.

City Lore has also successfully directed four previous NEH Institutes on the topic of exploring Muslim Cultures through the Arts. And we have conducted professional development workshops in the arts and humanities for classroom teachers, arts specialists, librarians, and school administrators and support staff, and for teaching artists. City Lore’s Education Program provides long term artist residencies and assembly performances in K – 12 schools in all five boroughs of New York City and has worked closely with the NYC DOE to develop lessons in Latin American music in New York City and its roots in other cultures.

City Lore

Founded in 1985, City Lore is a New York City-based center for urban folk culture. Our mission is to foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs in service of cultural equity and social justice. Located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, City Lore’s encompasses an office space; an archive of documentary films, photographic images, and recordings, and a gallery and performance space where we host exhibits, performances, lectures, and professional development workshops and institutes for teachers and teaching artists. Examples of our public programs include the People’s Hall of Fame, Community Anchors, a POEMobile that projects poems onto walls and buildings, artist residencies and performances in New York City’s K-12 schools, and public programs featuring artists from many communities throughout the five boroughs. We work in four cultural domains: urban folklore and history, arts and humanities education, grassroots poetry traditions, and preservation. In each of these domains, City Lore seeks to further cultural equity and model a better world with projects as dynamic and diverse as New York City itself.

City Lore’s staff are talented cultural activists with advanced degrees in history, folklore, poetry, performing and visual arts, education, anthropology, ethnomusicology, archiving, and preservation. The Institute’s Project Directors, Elena Martinez and City Lore co-director Dr. Steve Zeitlin, both folklorists, will be joined by City Lore staff members, co-director, Molly Garfinkel, who also directs the Place Matters preservation program, and Dr. Amanda Dargan and Sahar Muradi, who co-directed City Lore’s 4 previous NEH Summer Institutes. Both have worked for many years designing and directing City Lore’s Education Program, which brings a uniquely cultural perspective and rich community contacts and resources to arts education.


Founded by the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), the BMHC is committed to preserving and promoting Bronx music, cultivating Bronx artists, spurring neighborhood revival, and providing accessible cultural programs for the community. The BMHC is a performing arts and community center for incubating new work, cultivating a community of artists, and bringing together audiences to celebrate Bronx music. In 2017, WHEDco broke ground on Bronx Commons, its third affordable housing development, which will serve as the permanent home for the Bronx Music Heritage Center. The cultural centerpiece of the development, the Bronx Music Hall, which will open Spring 2023.
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For Questions Please Contact 
Elena Martinez