The History of Latinos in Rhode Island

The Pioneers | Los Pioneros

Doña Fefa


I remember when we would drive to New Haven in our blue station wagon to buy platános, yuca, café Dominicano and other food for the Hispanic people who lived in Providence in the mid-to-late 1960s ...

Angel "Tato" Cosme


In 1955, Angel “Tato" Cosme quit school after the ninth grade to help his mother earn money for the family. He left the poverty of his home in Puerto Rico and traveled to New England, and eventually settled in Rhode Island.

Tessie Salabert & Miriam (Salabert) Gorriaran


Tessie Salabert and her sister, Miriam, were born in Cuba. The two girls and their brother, Eduardo, were sent to the U.S. on April 10, 1961 as a result of “Operación Pedro Pan (Operation Peter Pan).” Tessie was 11 years old , Miriam was 14 years old and their brother was eight. ....

Nerino Sánchez


Nerino Sánchez arrived penniless in Miami in 1969, fed up with the rationing and communism of Castro's Cuba. Soon he joined relatives in Providence. Many early Latinos remember shopping at a small market that he owned on Douglas Avenue.
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José González


My main goal then, was to give back to the Latino community by going into social work. But I had a moral dilemma. In social work you sometimes provide too much support, and don’t educate people into becoming independent. And you have this realization that the best way you can help the Latino community is by educating them ...

Roberto González


Roberto González moved to Rhode Island from New York City in 1969 with his brother, José. After being invited here to visit, their mother decided to bring the family (including a third brother) to raise them in what she felt was a safer environment. Roberto eventually became the first Latino Judge in Rhode Island - sworn into the Providence Housing Court in 2004 ....

Osvaldo Castillo


Today, the community has changed a lot because it is larger. I see more bilingual people working in government offices, and back in the early days there was none of that. I also speak better English, but I still feel bad for the people who are just arriving to this country because they still have to go through what I went through ...

Angel Taveras


Angel Taveras was raised in Providence by a single mother and attended the public schools. In 2000 he was unsuccessful candidate for the 2nd Congressional District and in 2011 ran and was elected first Latino mayor in the City of Providence
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Victor Mendoza


The best thing that I did, my best performance is when we founded the Coalition of Hispanic organizations because that was the agency that gave respect to the community. That was the agency that put the name Hispanic high in the state ...

Juán Francisco


I think that when you look now at what had happened, it's easy to forget the roots, but you have to build before you can see structure and we did a lot of building, you know, a lot of building ...

Julieta Marroquin Castellanos


Julie Castellanos's remarkable story embodies what Latinos and Latinas endured yet persevered as new immigrants to this country in the 1970s and 80s ....

Olga Noguera


I think that we have done so much with the Hispanic community that people who come now should be very proud of the people who opened doors … I think that we made a lot of strides and I think that we need to encourage young persons to participate in the Hispanic community ...

The History of Latino Community Activism


When Latin Americans first began to arrive in Providence in the 1950s and 1960s, the very small community was met with minimal recognition on the part of the bureaucracy...

Jay Giuttari


The Colombian population in Rhode Island owes its beginnings to one gentleman who, in the early 1960s, had an insightful and innovative idea: Jay Giuttari, whose father owned Lyon Fabrics, a textile mill in Central Falls.

Gustavo Carreño


Gustavo Carreño, a highly skilled weaver, came to Central Falls in March 1965. He was one of three textile workers recruited by Lyon Silk Mill Corporation in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Valentin Rios


Valentin Rios came to Rhode Island in the early 1960s. He was one of the first Colombians here who were brought to work in the failing mills in Central Falls.

Bernardo Chamorro


There was a time when there were many jobs in Central Falls that attracted a lot of people, but when the jobs ended everyone moved out. Many of the Colombians who first came to Central Falls went to South Carolina because there are many textile factories there too, and they needed workers ...

Don Pedro Cano


Today it is hard to imagine that we lived like that in those days. Central Falls has changed and now we have so many [Latino] markets, restaurants, record stores and people in the street can be heard speaking Spanish every day ...
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