The Pioneers

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    Olga Noguera

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    José González

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    Ozvaldo Castillo

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    Don Pedro Cano

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    Doña Fefa

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    Rev. Juán Francisco

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    Victor Mendoza

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    Bernardo Chamorro

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    Commmunity Organizations

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    Roberto González

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    Tessie Salabert

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    Miriam Gorriaran

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    Caption Text

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Doña Fefa
Matriarch of the first Dominican family.

Tessie Salabert
Her father was one of the founders of the first Club Cubano in RI.

Victor Mendóza
Early activist, political pioneer and founder of the 1st Hispanic festival in RI.

Juán Francisco
Latino political candidate in the 1970s.

Don Pedro Cano, Sr.
Helped save Rhode Island’s textile business in the 1960s.

Bernardo Chamorro
One of the founders of the first Colombian cultural organization.

José González
One of the first advocates for education for Latinos.

Osvaldo Castillo
An early Latino mover and shaker in Rhode Island.

Roberto González
The first Hispanic Judge in Rhode Island.

Olga Noguera
Advocate for Rhode Island Hispanic immigrants in the early years.

Angel Tavers
First Latino Mayor in Rhode Island.

The History of Latino Community Activism and Political Participation

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 1950s and '60s ...

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. ....

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 ...

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 ...

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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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 ...

Zenaida Barran


Zenaida Barran came to Rhode Island in 1960, just before Fidel Castro took over Cuba. Her parents wanted her to continue her education and were afraid she would be sent to work in the sugar fields in rural Cuba ...

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 ...

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 ....

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...

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 ...

Valentin Rios


My name is Valentin Rios and I moved to Rhode Island in the early 1960s. I was one of the first Colombians here. Jay Giuttari brought three men that came on March 8, 1965: it was myself, Gustavo Carreño and Horacio Gil, who was also my boss in Colombia.

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 ...

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 roles … 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 ...
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