CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — Marta Martinez has amassed 110 recordings of Rhode Island Latinos sharing their stories.
The archive, which also includes photos, videos, newspapers, and political ads, is part of the Nuestras Raíces Oral History Project.
The treasure trove of history is housed in Central Falls, where people can find information on pioneers like the first Latino judge, the first Hispanic police officer, and the first bogega.
Martinez, the executive director of Rhode Island Latino Arts, decided to start chronicling the community’s success when she moved to Rhode Island in 1988 and was searching for people to connect with.
“I started talking to the Latino community especially when I heard some Spanish being spoken,” Martinez recalled. “I would ask permission, ‘Can I just record you? I’m interested in just hearing more when I get home.’”
Martinez found coverage on the community didn’t highlight the success stories.
“There were articles in the newspaper, but it was mainly about Latinos that had been arrested. It was just negative news about Latinos and that just didn’t seem right,” Martinez said.
Martinez interviewed Josefina Rosario, a Dominican woman credited with opening the first bodega in the state. Martinez also captured the renaming of Borinquen Street, formerly known as Bishop Street. The move was meant to honor Puerto Rico’s indigenous name.
For the oral historian, the important stories aren’t just in the past and she continues to look for Latinos who want to contribute their present.
“Your story will be the next generation’s history,” Martinez added.
To add your story to the collection, fill out this project form.