Holiday in Rhode Island

Rhode Island notable latinos

Castillo, Osvaldo (1949-). A native of Puerto Rico, Castillo joined the Providence police force in 1974, becoming the first Latino officer in the state. In the 1980s, he played a more active role in the Latino community, helping to organize the state’s first Puerto Rican parade in 1984 and establish Casa Puerto Rico, a multiservice community center.

Depena, Melba (1972-). A native of the Dominican Republic, Depena in 2003 was the first Latina, as well as the first woman, to be named executive director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party. She also founded the University of Rhode Island’s first Latina sorority, Sigma Lambda Upsilon.

Martinez, Marta V. (1958-). An independent oral historian, Martinez has been instrumental in chronicling the experiences of Latino migrants and the consolidation of the

Latino community in Rhode Island. She served as HSSA’s first executive director and was the chairwoman of the first Governor’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs. A native of Mexico, Martinez also is the founder of the Hispanic Heritage Committee in Rhode Island.

Mendoza, Victor (1949-). Born in the Dominican Republic, Mendoza was among the first Latino community organizers in the early 1970s. He was involved with the founding of such groups as the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations and the Hispanic Political Action Committee, as well as the Dominican Festival of Rhode Island.

Noguera, Olga (1940-). A native of Guatemala, Noguera has been a notable activist since the late 1970s first with Accion Hispana (a forerunner to Progreso Latino), and later, HSSA. She is a former president of the Providence school board and assistant director of the state’s Department of Human Services, which works with the Latino community.

Rodriguez, Pablo (1955-). Among the cofounders of RILPAC, Rodriguez served as the organization’s first president. A native of Puerto Rico, he also was the first Latino medical director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island, the first chair of the Minority Health Advisory Board at the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the only Latino to be appointed to the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission in 1994.

Rosario, Josefina (1928-). Known as Dona Fefa, Rosario and her husband, Tony, were instrumental in helping other Latino migrants get settled in Rhode Island after they arrived via New York City in 1956. Shortly after migrating, this husband-and-wife team started Fefa’s Market, which is believed to be the first Latino market and restaurant in the state.

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