Josefina "Doña Fefa" Rosario
Honoring the Mother of the Latino Community
There was also a time when I worked hard to help Hispanic people register to vote. Especially many of the Puerto Ricans who had already been living here 18 years, or so. They had never been registered before, so my husband and I went out and helped them register. I remember when [Vincent] “Buddy” Cianci was running for office, my husband went out and got a school bus. And if you could see the people that he put in that bus to go and register to vote... Wow! There were lots of them. Many of them had no idea about politics or who to vote for, and we helped with that, too.
I was once referred to as "The Mother of the Hispanic Community" by the Providence Journal newspaper. And on Mother's Day people sometimes call the Spanish radio stations to wish me a Happy Mother's Day. They dedicate songs and everything. "Feliz Día de las madres, a Doña Fefa..."
When my husband passed away, I expected a large crowd. But, never did I imagine the number of people that came that day to pay their respect! We counted 76 cars at the funeral. My nephew, who is a Providence Police Officer, counted them. I was very happy that so many Hispanic people remembered my husband and me when my he died. He died on July 10, 1978, and on that day, we saw how he touched so many people while he was alive.
Today, I am retired and don't do as much as I used to back then. But people still remember me. And they also know my daughters and grandchildren. Sometimes, I still get calls directly from the Dominican Republic, from the American Consulate there asking to help someone who wants to come here. My daughters do most of the helping. I am not as active as I used to be, but I know I can trust my daughters to help when someone calls looking for information about schools, jobs, or whatever.
Another comadre, who lives in Cranston says to me, "Fefa, you can leave your car parked in the middle of South Providence, leave it open, pocketbook in it, whatever, and you don't have to lock the windows or doors because everyone, people of all ages know who Fefa is and what kind of car she drives. Nobody will EVER touch your car! I mean, it doesn't matter who it is. They all love you and respect you so much!"
So, many young people from this generation that I don't really know personally, know who I am. Sometimes, when I am sitting in my car waiting at a stop light, I will hear a car honk and somebody say "Fefa!" And when I look up, you know, I don't know who that person is! Then they will say, "I'm related to this person or that person..." And then I say, "Oh yeah, HI." It seems everybody knows me, but I don't know everybody else!
Even my grandchildren's friends know who I am. For example, once my granddaughter was visiting a friend's house and was introduced to the parents. When they realized she was my granddaughter, they told her how I had helped that family when they first arrived in Providence 16 years earlier. Now, the young kids at my granddaughter's school and their parents and grandparents say to her, "Oh you're Fefa's granddaughter, aren't you?" And they treat her with respect. That makes me feel good.
I was once referred to as "The Mother of the Hispanic Community" by the Providence Journal newspaper. And on Mother's Day people sometimes call the Spanish radio stations to wish me a Happy Mother's Day. They dedicate songs and everything. "Feliz Día de las madres, a Doña Fefa..." A Happy Mother's Day to Doña Fefa, they say. People like Hugo Adames, [a radio personality], who know and remember me.
In the old days, we would have a big feast at my house on Mother's Day. Many people would come; old friends from the community would always stop by and see me. You know something, when I say 'community,' I am referring to the people whom we knew in the old days, as well as those who still do a lot of work for Hispanics today.
There are many people who I know who are like family. I don't only think of them as friends, I see them as familia, you know. Because they've always been there. We are still there for one another. And we will always be there, to the end. •
Interview conducted by Marta V. Martínez, Juanita Sánchez
and Karen Lee Ziner.