‘The power’s in numbers’: A look at RI’s growing Latino population

Hispanic Heritage Month

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The number of Hispanic and Latino residents is on the rise in every single city and town in Rhode Island, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data.

One of the fastest growing Hispanic and Latino communities is in North Providence, where Dariann and Wilberto Gonzalez opened La Casa del Sabor on Smith Street, bringing a taste of the Caribbean to the area.

“This is the house of flavor,” said Dariann, explaining the name of their restaurant. “This is where you come into your home, and you’re going to taste authentic food.”

The couple opened La Casa del Sabor in 2020, offering the same Puerto Rican and Dominican food they grew up with, like mofongo and sancocho.

"He wanted to offer what he always grew up eating," Dariann said, referring to Wilberto. "To bring a bit of his culture to his community."

Their community is one of many that saw an increase in the number of Hispanic and Latino residents in the last several years.

Census data shows while most of Rhode Island's Hispanic and Latino residents live in more urban areas like Providence, Cranston and Pawtucket, communities such as North Providence and Johnston saw the population more than double from 2010 to 2020.

“The power's in numbers, and knowing you’re here," said Marta Martínez, executive director of Rhode Island Latino Arts, the group that spearheads the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in Rhode Island.

Martínez has worked with census data before, and said a lot could factor into those changes, like job opportunities, school systems and housing costs.

"You have homes, you have trees, more of a quieter life," Martínez said of the reasons people switch from urban to suburban communities. "That's what people are looking for."

Rhode Island Latino Arts works year-round to highlight locally made art, dance, music and food. The group also teaches people about Latino cultures, including what makes them different and what they have in common.

"Learning about how they can become part of the society, and also empower them to speak up for who they are and what they can bring to society," Martínez said.

“Our culture, us Latinos can support one another and we can see and tell that we can have a great outcome," Dariann added.

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year, encompassing a number of holidays and independence days that are observed by Central and Latin American countries.

It dates back to 1968, and was created to recognize the contributions made by and important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate Latino heritage and cultures.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the month and how to celebrate is encouraged to visit RI Latino Arts' website.

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