Portuguese Create Stable But Isolated World

It is nearly noon and the small crowd is growing restless. A Portuguese soap opera plays quietly on the large-screen television. The old men in the corner lay down their deck of cards. All eyes are on the door.

You can smell the food before it arrives. The spicy scent of the traditional Portuguese fare--rice, fish and vegetables--quickly fills the room. It just looks like a hot meal on a cold day, but this is more than a free lunch.

For Adelia Lopes and the 35 other elderly men and women who spend their days on the second floor of Cambridge's Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS), it is a much-needed taste of home.


MAPS is only a 25-minute walk down Cambridge Street from the Square, but the world of Inman Square hardly is saturated with over-priced hip clothing stores. Store signs are in Portuguese. One market window advertises "Fresh killed fish" in bold, red block-lettering. On a sunny morning, a few shop-owners linger outside their stores smoking cigars.

It is a world where English is not spoken, where children take Portuguese classes, where older residents frequently return "home" and where the Portuguese community means everything.

Strangers in a Strange Land

The heart of Cambridge's Portuguese community, which caters to an older, well-established group of immigrants from mainland Portugal and the outlying Azorian islands, has taken nearly three decades to develop.

When Lopes first arrived in Cambridge in 1970, MAPS was only a year old, she only knew her brother-in-law, she had four children and did not speak English.

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