Latino History of Rhode Island

A collection of the voices of Rhode Island's Latino pioneers

Latinos in Rhode Island

Since the turn of the century, the United States has been experiencing a major wave of immigration, and, as it was in the nineteenth century and the early part of this one, the state of Rhode Island has been and still is a major destination for immigrant settlement.

In recent history, immigrants have been arriving to the Ocean State from such countries as Cambodia, Ghana, Vietnam, Liberia and Somalia; Eastern Block countries such as East Germany & Russia; and since the 1950s, from every Spanish-speaking country in the world. According to the 2010 Census the total Hispanic population in Rhode Island is 120,586 (that’s an increase overall of 11.4% since 2000), and the four largest Hispanic ethnic groups are Dominicans (33,879), Puerto Ricans (29,904), Guatemalans (18,125) and, Colombians (9,998).

These numbers now prove that Latinos carry a great amount of political power in Rhode Island. The population of Central Falls alone saw a rise of 9 per cent from the last census, with a 48 percent Latino count in that city.

The life of a long-ago immigrant or a recent arrival to America is a particularly rich topic for exploration through oral history. Granted, it is not easy to trace the personal lives of those who first made their way to America as far back as the turn-of-the 20th century, when America first began receiving countless immigrants from Europe. However, we found it relatively easy to find individuals who came to Rhode Island from Spanish-speaking countries mainly because Hispanics began arriving and settling here as recently as the 1940s and 50s. Today, there are still hundreds of Latinos living in Rhode Island with vivid memories of their first arrival to this state. Rhode Island also has a very active group of “millennial” Latinos, who are responding to today’s world in ways that are familiar to many who lived in the 1960s.

This project hopes to capture as many of those voices as possible.


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