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Latino Places That Matter | Blackstone Valley, RI

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This photo shows some updates to the side entrance, facing Cross Street in Central Falls, RI. Lyon Silk Works, Inc. was a working mill and still employed descendents of the original Colombian workers until it closed in 2018.

- Photo by Marta V. Martínez (2020)

According to Giuttari, the idea quickly caught on and many other mills in Central Falls and the Blackstone Valley began to recruit Colombian workers to fill the labor shortage in Rhode Island.

For Lyon Silkworks, having skilled workers from Colombia step in to do the necessary work to keep the machinery humming, kept the entire textile business in Rhode Island from fading away in the 1960s.

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Lyon Silk Works, Inc. | 469 Roosevelt Avenue | Central Falls, RI 02863

This 1-story red brick mill was originally The Royal Weaving Company in 1887. In 1925, Joseph Guittari purchased the mill and it became Lyon Silworks, Inc. a family-owned business that continued the silk weaving tradition. In March of 1965, Joseph "Jay" Guittari, Jr. brought three Colombian men to work in his father's mill.
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This photo shows some updates made by current owners, and the flag flyer to the right gives a hint that the home is owned by a Colombian family.

- Photo by Marta V. Martínez (2022)

This house on Cowden Street became the first home to many Colombians who followed while they worked to save enough money to find a larger apartment so they could bring their families to Rhode Island from Colombia.

The Ramos Home | 17 Cowden Street | Central Falls, RI 02863

This was the home of Bernardino and Celsa (Norgurol) Ramos, who immigrated to Central Falls from Spain in 1920. The couple raise five children, one of whom is Fernando, also known as "Freddie"

In 1966, Freddie rented the second level of the Ramos home to Pedro Cano and Valentin Rios and later to Gustavo Carreño, all who were working at Lyon Silk Works, Inc. The Colombians began to refer to them as "Los Españoles" noting that upon finding someone in Rhode Island who was fluent in Spanish brought a sense of relief and comfort.
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12 Meeting Street Cumberland, RI became an important social location for Colombians in the early 1970s.
Casa Grande became a place of Sunday gatherings which reminded Colombians of their native music, food, and special events, such as baptisms and birthday celebrations. The building soon became an important social site for recent Colombian immigrants and where they would have cultural events, like Carnaval.

In 1972, the
Colombian-American Cultural Association charter was signed during a meeting in this building.

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Casa Grande | 12 Meeting Street | Cumberland, RI 02860

By the early 70s the Colombian community had grown to an extent that many felt a need to organize. And so they began meeting in the basement of 12 Meeting Street, in what they began to refer to as Casa Grande.

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This building on the corner of Washington and Cowden Streets was the first Colombian-owned market in Rhode Island. Another market owned by a Cuban family opened not far up, on Broad Street, a few months later on the same year.
Elio Lozano, who had moved to Rhode Island from Barranquilla in 1970, saw a need to open a local market, in 1973 opened Colombia Market at 135 Washington Street (corner of Cowden). It became the first Hispanic market in Central Falls and remained in that location (changing ownership three times) until it closed in the 1990s.

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Colombia Market | 135 Washington Street | Central Falls,RI 02863

In the early 1960s and 70s, Colombians had to improvise while preparing their Colombian favorite meals while shopping at local supermarkets. Many still did not drive or own cars, and driving to Providence where Fefa's Market and the International Market carried familiar products, was a challenge. A neighborhood market where locals could walk and where they could find familiar ingredients was in great demand.
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At that time the Hispanic population in Central Falls was growing in leaps and bounds, and the restaurant quickly thrived.

Today it remains a popular eatery and its menu continues to cater primarily to the local Colombian community.

To share your memories of El Paisa, go here

El Paisa Restaruant | 598 Dexter St. | Central Falls, RI 02863

In January of 1978, José Quintero, an immigrant from Medellín, Colombia opened a small restaurant on 598 Dexter Street and called it El Paisa. In 1979, César and Donatila Zuleta took over the business, remodeled it reopened it in 1980.
Funds for these projects made possible with partial support from:
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