Latino History of Rhode Island

A Timeline | 1960 to the 1979

Rhode Island Latino History | TIMELINE: 1960 to 1979

The U.S. Census form does not collect numbers of Hispanics in Rhode Island, listing only “White” and “Other” as it releases population data.

1960

Rafael Trujillo is shot and killed when his blue 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air is ambushed on a road outside Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.

May 30, 1961
By October of 1962, 220 Cubans live in Rhode Island, many are children who came as part of Operación Pedro Pan (Operation Peter Pan). In June 1962, with the help of the Providence Catholic Diocese and the International Institute of Rhode Island, El Club Cubano is formed in Providence, with the goal of assisting Cuban refugees who continue to arrive in Rhode Island.
1962-1963
Gustavo Carreño, Horacio Gil and Valentin Ríos, the first of many Colombians, arrive in Rhode Island. They are brought by Jay Giuttari to work at Lyon Fabrics, a textile mill owned by his father, located at 469 Roosevelt Street in Central Falls.
March 5, 1965
The first Guatemalan family moves to triple-decker on Corinth Street in Providence.
Fall 1966
Mercado Latino aka the International Market, is established at 129 Douglas Avenue. It is owned and managed by Cuban-immigrant Nerino Sánchez and his wife Nereida. The market remains there until 1983.
people
1969

The U.S. Census Bureau counts 5,596 Hispanics in Rhode Island.

1970
In June of 1970, noticing the growing Spanish-speaking population, The Providence Catholic Diocese creates the Latin-American Apostolate and appoints Father Raymond Tetreault to head it.
June 1970
The Diocese opens the first Latin-American Community Center in South Providence. Located at 3 Harvard Avenue, LACC opened its doors with the help of Board President Arturo Liz and Fr. Tetreault. Mercedes Messier is appointed as its first Executive Director.
October 25, 1970
A Latin-American Health Clinic opens at 557 Broad Street in South Providence. It is staffed by physicians who were recruited from Spanish-speaking countries to fill the cultural-health needs of the fast-growing Latino community.
1971
Nuevos Horizontes, the first Spanish-language newspaper hits the streets – owned and published by Giaconda and Jaime Salazar.
1972
Casa Puerto Rico is formed in Providence, and later receives the city’s first block grant awarded to a Hispanic organization.
1972
Osvaldo Castillo, originally from Puerto Rico, completes a 17-week training program at the Providence Police Academy and is sworn in as Rhode Island's first Hispanic officer by Mayor Joseph A. Doorley Jr. (June 28, 1974)
people
1974
Josefina Rosario closes her bodega on Broad Street and re-opens in a new location, at 516 Prairie Avenue, right next to the Catholic Inner City office and near St. Michael's Catholic Church, where much of the Latino clientele are concentrated.
1974
In the summer of 1974, Calvary Baptist Church at 747 Broad Street becomes home to Iglesias Hispana El Calvario, the first Baptist Hispanic congregation in Rhode Island and part of a watershed of Hispanic congregations forming across New England.
people
1974

Colombian police seize 600 kilograms of cocaine from a small plane. Drug traffickers respond with a vendetta, killing 40 people in one weekend in what's known as the "Medellin Massacre."

November 1975
Progreso Latino opens its doors at 438 Dexter Street, to fill the needs of the state’s fast-growing Spanish-speaking immigrant community in Central Falls. The first director is Rafael Sánchez.

In 1984, Patricia Martínez becomes Executive Director.

1977
Roberto González is appointed to the Providence School Board by Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. (1978-1983)
1978
Victor Mendóza, head of the Hispanic Cultural Arts Committee, organizes the first Latin American Festival of Music, held at the Temple to Music in Roger Williams Park. It attracts close to 20,000 people.
1979
The Hispanic Social Services Committee is formed in Providence and one year later incorporates into a 501c3 nonprofit organization and becomes the Hispanic Social Services Association (HSSA).
1979
The Guatemalan government opens the first Consulate in Providence. Zoila Guerra is appointed as Consul (It operates until the year 2000).
1979
Antillas Restaurant is opened by co-owners, Roberto González and Michael Reyes. It is the first stand-alone restaurant in Providence serving strictly Caribbean-style food. It closes its doors in 1982.
1979
In Central Falls, César and Donatila Zuleta become owners of El Paisa Restaurant. The eatery is located on Dexter Street and serves Colombian-style dishes.
1979

With tensions mounting in El Salvador and the country on the verge of an insurrection, the civil-military Revolutionary Government Junta (JRG) ideposes President Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero in a coup.

October 15, 1979

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