The History of Latinos in Rhode Island

A collection of the voices of Rhode Island's Latino pioneers

Bernardo Charmorro

July 20th is the Independence Day of Colombia, and when we first moved here, we began to organize a fiesta to celebrate that day. It was then that the Colombian American Association was born, around 1969. This was a group that would meet in Cumberland, at my house, every Saturday. The group was originally called Club Colombia, but in 1972, the name was changed to the Colombian American Association because there were more people involved, and I think that those who were born here, who felt they were Americans or were married to an American wanted to change the name. So that everyone would feel welcome, we changed the name. In the early days it was only 4-5 people who met, but today it has grown much larger. The goal of the group is mainly a social one, to relax, have food and enjoy. Since we didn’t often celebrate American feasts, we wanted to celebrate our own and that’s how we decided to form the group. Today there is still a good many people around who started the group, it was founded as sports or social oriented group, not a business oriented one.

I worked hard here to make sure that my children had a good future, and that is the main reason why I came to work here in the United States. My children still live in Central Falls. Many of the first immigrants who came to Central Falls are still here too, but many have also left. I think they do that when they find better opportunities in other cities. Today, the Colombian community has become fairly large and the young people are very well prepared to deal with life better than we were in the old days. I have my two sons that I brought with me from Colombia – one was one year old and the other was four months old when my wife came to live with me. Today they are professionals, and so are many of the other young people who were just children when we first arrived to Rhode Island.

I have returned to Colombia often and when my children were little, they also visited there. We went as recently as 1995 so that my youngest, who is now 28 years old, could get to know the country. It’s strange when I return to visit Colombia; it has always been that way. It is so different there since I left. I like to visit, but I think I prefer to live here now.

Interview conducted by Emily Drury and Joshua Torpey
April 11, 1998

One of favorite past-times throughout my life is writing poetry and music [lyrics]. I wrote something for the centennial celebration of Central Fall in 1993. I would like to share it with you now.

Bernardo Chamorro
279 Cowden Street
Central Falls, RI 02863

Central Falls

Central Falls Love Central Falls we love you Today on your centennial We greet you with love As your adopted sons. Although we came from Colombia We are Americans too, And all the Hispanics reunited Here today greet you with love. Central Falls we love you Because you have accepted us. Our sons grew up here And others were born there too And that is why today we bring to you All of our love. Central Falls we love you Because you gave us a home and happiness And because you have accepted us. And full of happiness today We bring to you and offer to you This kind of love, our love. Central Falls we love you We celebrate with you All the Hispanics together Congratulate you with love.
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