This tour of Cambodian neighborhoods in Lowell introduces first time visitors to Lowell and native Lowellians alike to the cultural riches of the city's largest immigrant group. Since the mid nineteenth century, Lowell has been
recognized as a center for immigrants, who, since superseding Yankee mill girls, have historically taken low paying jobs. Although Lowell's textile mills closed down in the beginning of this century, new factories sprang up, and to this day, even in an
uncertain economy, newcomers continue to settle in this historic industrial city. Lowell's heritage encompasses immigrant and
refugee resettlement as well as early capitalist enterprise.
Most of Lowell's Cambodians came to the United States in the early 1980s as refugees, victims of the brutal Phol Pot regime. Many came to America from rural provinces where they practiced farming. Suffering from the dislocation of war, Cambodians in Lowell have also had to negotiate a relatively harsh climate and an unfamiliar urban environment. It is estimated that Cambodians make up 20% of Lowell's current population of 103,000 people, with large Cambodian communities in neighborhoods known as the Acre and the Lower Highlands.The Acre, especially recognized for housing new immigrants, includes a historic and ongoing presence of Irish, Greek, Hispanic, and Southeast Asian communities.
In going to popular Cambodian commercial establishments,such as restaurants, markets, and video stores, as well as parks and places of worship, visitors will witness how Lowell's most recent immigrants have made this historic city their own. Cambodian newcomers to Lowell participate in the city's immigrant tradition of adapting old sites to new needs and building new structures to fill traditional requirements. This tour, the product of collaboration between Cambodian community leaders,Middlesex Community College faculty and staff, Lowell National Historical Park interpreters, and other representatives from Lowell's educational, religious, and cultural agencies, is an experiment in cross cultural and inter institutional sharing. We hope, inasmuch as it is possible, that this tour illustrates the way Cambodian Lowellians choose to represent their neighborhoods.