Our nation was founded on and thrives on immigration. One of the newest immigrant groups in the Boston area are Somalis. They are among the largest of the new populations of African immigrants. While precise numbers are very difficult to determine, there are approximately 8,000 in the Greater Boston area and another 2,000 estimated across the rest of Massachusetts. Very few studies have examined Somalis in the United States, and no studies exist on the community in Boston or Massachusetts.

It is an interesting sociological question to ask how similar the Somali experience has been in the United States (and in Boston) compared with other immigrant groups. In this article, we will attempt to suggest some plausible answers to that question, but a definitive answer awaits a formal research study.

Turmoil, poverty, and war—particularly civil war—are powerful motivating factors in the migration of large numbers of people away from their cultural roots. These circumstances have certainly been present in the case of the failed state of Somalia. Prior to the outbreak of civil war in 1991, the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, was actually a tourist destination. But since then Somalia in general and the capital of Mogadishu have come to represent one of the worst cases in nation state failure and chaos in civil war.


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