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Latinx Places That Matter | South Providence, RI

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Site of the original Fefa’s Market is located on 1232 Broad St.

Fefa’s Market | 1232 Broad Street | Providence, RI 02905

Josefina Rosario, known affectionately as Doña Fefa is quoted as saying, “I strongly believe that my family and I were the first Dominican family to live in Providence, and maybe Rhode Island.”

Doña Fefa arrived with her husband Tony (who was from Puerto Rico) in the 1960s and eventually opened
Fefa’s Market and it became the first Dominican-owned bodega — Latino market — on Broad Street. She later added a small kitchen and counter in the back of the store and began serving the favorite dishes of the fast-growing Dominican and other Latin-Americans around at the time.

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The photo above is of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. The Diocese opened the LACC. It closed its doors in 1974 and eventually the building was razed and there are no remnants that it ever existed, outside of newspaper articles found in the Catholic newspapers.

If you have a memory/story to share about LAAC with the Latino Oral History Project, please contact us.

Latin American Community Center | 4 Harvard Street | Providence, RI 02907

In the1970s, the Latino community began to come together to organize in an attempt to gain access to social services. In 1970, this need was answered in the form of the Latin American Community Center (LACC), which was financially supported and encouraged by the Catholic Diocese of Providence.

LACC was located at 3 Harvard Avenue, and its main purpose was to help Latinos adjust to life in America. Many of the new immigrants could not speak English, so they had no way of finding out how to fulfill their basic needs. The center provided a place where Latinos could go and explain their difficulties, and the staff would refer them to the appropriate city or state agency for service. LACC’s staff also helped find jobs for newcomers and offered English language classes for both adults and children.

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Pictured above are José González (center) and staff of Antillas selling food at a Latino festival. The original building at 736 Broad St. where Antillas stood is no longer there. That entire block was razed when the streets were widened in the 1980s.

Antillas Restaurant | 736 Broad Street | Providence, RI 02907

In 1979 Roberto and José González, with business partner Michael Reyes, opened a restaurant called Antillas Restaurant. (NOTE: The name refers to the islands in the Antilles).

Roberto remembers: "We served Puerto Rican/Dominican food, and we had two cooks: one was my mother, and the other one was a Dominican lady. But there’s very little difference between the cuisines of either culture. Antillas was located on 736 Broad Street, right across from Cavalry Baptist Church. The building is gone now, it was torn down.

"I believe that Antillas may have been the first true Latino restaurant in Rhode Island, because Fefa cooked and served food in her store, but it wasn’t really a stand-alone restaurant. It was a kitchen-counter inside her store; she served food in the back corner. Antillas was exclusively a restaurant."

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Pictured above La Iglesia Hispanic "El Calvario," located at 747 Broad Street, is still serving South Providence's Latino population.

Iglesia Hispana “El Calvario” | 747 Broad Street | Providence, RI 02907

In the summer of 1974, Cuban minister Rev. Pedro Ortiz walked the streets of Rhode Island, knocking on the doors of local churches. He was there on behalf of the American Baptist Church, tasked with finding congregations willing to host Spanish-speaking services. It was the Calvary Baptist Church that opened its doors to him.

The Calvary Baptist Church has a long history in Providence, Rhode Island, stretching back to 1854. One hundred and twenty years after its founding, the church at 747 Broad Street became home to the first Baptist Hispanic (Iglesias Hispana) congregation in Rhode Island—and part of a watershed of Hispanic congregations forming across New England.

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Borinquen Street, which is the ancient name for Puerto Rico, is the first street in Rhode Island that was officially re-named to the Spanish language.

Borinquen Street | Providence, RI 02905

In 1984, with the help of Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci and Councilman Tom O’Connor, Castillo and members of the Puerto Rican community petitioned to change the name of Bishop Street, in the Dog Town section of South Providence. Oswaldo "Ozzie" Castillo, a Puerto Rican activist, says:

"Hispanics who lived on or near that street had a problem pronouncing the word bishop.”

“In Spanish,” said Ozzie, “the word bicho is a derogatory term, and so we renamed the street to Borinquen.”

Borinquen is the ancient name of the island of Puerto Rico. Before the Spanish Colonists arrived and renamed it Puerto Rico the indigenous Indians, The Tainos, called the land "Borinquen,” which means "Land of the Valiant Lord." Someone who is from Borinquen (Puerto Rico) is called a Boriqua.

Today Borinquen Street is the only street in Rhode Island officially re-named to the Spanish language.

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Funds for these projects made possible with partial support by:

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