Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Michael Ann Williams (Director), Timothy H. Evans, Ann K. Ferrell

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


According to the 1990 bulletin issued by the National Park Service, traditional cultural properties (TCPs) derive their significance from cultural practices or beliefs of living communities. This thesis centers on a case study of the nomination of Casita Rincón Criollo to the National Register of Historic Places as a TCP. The nomination is a collaborative project of Place Matters in New York City and Western Kentucky University, initiated by the American Folklore Society Working Group in Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy. Casita Rincón Criollo has several issues that make nomination to the National Register tricky. Casitas are small “houses,” typically accompanied by gardens, which serve as community gathering places for the Puerto Rican community in New York City. Often built illegally on empty lots, casitas tend to be impermanent structures. Casita Rincón Criollo in the South Bronx is less than 50 years old and has been moved and reconstructed. However, such is the nature of casitas. Building, maintaining, and rallying to save and move the casita makes the Casita Rincón Criollo significant. Further, Casita Rincon Criollo has served as a key influence on traditional forms of Puerto Rican music in the United States. For this reason, the Casita is recognized on City Lore’s grassroots register, Place Matters, and it was also incorporated into the GreenThumb garden movement in NYC. Folklorists are uniquely poised to recognize cultural groups and communities that might otherwise be overlooked by the National Register of Historic Places. In this thesis, I will discuss methods of research employed in the documentation of Casita Rincón Criollo and examine how folkloristic methods can address gaps in representation. I will contextualize the project within a broader history of heritage designation programs in the United States and world. From ethnographic fieldwork, oral histories, and more, I will conclude that folklorists offer alternative documentation strategies to supplement those most commonly employed in National Register nominations, as well as a more inclusive definition of cultural groups and tradition.


Archaeological Anthropology | Folklore | Social and Cultural Anthropology