Latino Pioneers | Los Pioneros

Bernardo Chamorro

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I was born on April 11, 1931 in Colosó, Colombia, near Barranquilla on the Atlantic Coast. I came to the United States on November 27, 1967. When I first arrived, I spent four days in Boston because when I got to the airport, I could not find my Friend Fidel Díaz, who was supposed to pick me up. I was lucky because on the airplane, I had become friendly with a man who said I could spend some time at his house while I waited for my ride. So I went with him to his house, and the next day I called Central Falls.

Fidel kept coming back to the airport, but he still did not find me. After three more tries in three days, we found each other and I finally made it to Central Falls. Fidel was someone with whom I had worked in Barranquilla, we worked in a textile company there, and he’s the one who sent me a contract to work in a company [in Central Falls] called Pontiac Mills.

I worked hard here to make sure that my children had a good future, and that is the main reason why I came to work here in the United States.
Bernardo Chamorro
When I first arrived in Rhode Island, I remember seeing a lot of Puerto Ricans in Central Falls, but then they moved out. Today in Central Falls the majority are the Colombians; there are a few Dominicans and many Mexicans and Guatemalans.

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, and workers were needed there. Once one person went down there to work, others followed and settled there. Others moved to Miami, where the weather is warm.

Many of the Colombians who come here today do so because they have family here and they don’t know where else to go. They no longer come here as they did in the early days, with contracts to work in the mills, because those jobs are not ample any more. In the old days, it was also easier to immigrate to the U.S., and today the immigration laws are much stricter.

In many ways, I think that those people who come here [from Colombia] today have it much easier than when I moved here because at least they have others to speak Spanish with, lots of places that sell Hispanic food, music, restaurants and things like that. When we first arrived, there were few Colombians, no restaurants [with Colombian food], nothing like that.

I never felt it was a difficult life for me, even though I did not speak English—I suppose it was because I knew my job skill so well that I didn’t have to worry about losing my job.


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