Reed Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with Special Walking Tour of Broad Street | U.S. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, RI — In front of the colorful mosaic that defines the Roger Williams Park Gateway Center on Broad Street, U.S. Senator Jack Reed kicked off a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month today with a walking tour along La Broa’ in Providence, a street that has long been known as a cultural corridor and historic heart of Providence’s diverse Latino community. 

Broad Street dates back to the 1700s, and its transformation to La Calle Broa’ began in the 1960s, when Latinos began to settle, rebuild, and make historic contributions that add to the bustling neighborhood’s unique character.

Today’s walking tour began with an exploration of Café Recuerdos, an art and history exhibit that provides a visual complement to Rhode Island Latino Arts’ Nuestras Raíces: Latino Oral Histories Project of Rhode Island.  The community art installation was commissioned in 2014 and completed by Cuban artist, Ana Flores.  The project aims to commemorate the Latin American experience, celebrating the hyphenated reality of becoming Latino-American: honoring the past – allá and embracing the present and future here – aquí.

Broad Street continues to gain recognition for its eclectic array of food, art, and shopping.  Making stops at small businesses, restaurants, shops, art installations, and culturally significant sites, Senator Reed strolled through the neighborhood along with Marta V. Martínez, founder and Executive Director of Rhode Island Latino Arts, for a special walking tour: “Un paseo por la historia y hacia un futuro más brillante” (“A stroll through history and toward a brighter future”).

Formally recognized by Congress since 1988, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to appreciate and celebrate the colorful cultures, rich histories, and diversity of the nation’s Hispanic population whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed annually from September 15 to October 15.  The celebration begins in the middle of September because it coincides with national independence days in several Latin American countries (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate theirs on September 15, followed by Mexico on the 16th, Chile on the 18th and Belize on September 21).

“Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize the rich history and outstanding contributions of our vibrant Latino community.  Rhode Island continues to grow, prosper, and benefit from the wealth of experiences, backgrounds, and flavors shared by our diverse Latino community.  Today’s tour highlights a sampling of Rhode Island’s outstanding Hispanic activists, entrepreneurs, educators, innovators, doctors, artists, laborers, veterans, historians, elected officials, and more.  They come from all walks of life and different generations, but their aspirations and achievements have helped shape our state and our future,” said Senator Reed.  “In addition to a celebration of success and resilience, this is also an opportunity to look at the challenges and hardships Hispanic populations have experienced and how they have persevered and flourished.  We must also recognize and remove obstacles to progress — whether it’s discrimination or barriers to affordable health care or access to capital — and ensure families and Latino small businesses have the tools they need to thrive.  I will continue working to lower costs, cut red tape, and invest in people, infrastructure, and programs that make our neighborhoods, communities, and nation better and stronger for all.”

During the walking tour, Senator Reed noted that more Americans of Hispanic ancestry than ever before are seizing the opportunity to create new businesses.  America’s Latino population is the fastest growing segment of the U.S.  Nationwide, there are nearly 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses across the country that contribute more than $800 billion to the American economy annually, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which is helmed by SBA Administrator Isabella Castilla Guzman, the highest-ranking Latina in President Biden’s cabinet, who visited Rhode Island last summer with Senator Reed.

In addition to Administrator Guzman, three other members of President Biden’s cabinet share Hispanic heritage: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra; U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

According to the U.S. Census, the U.S. Hispanic population reached 62.5 million in 2021, up from 50.5 million in 2010.

Hispanic or Latino residents now make up 17.6 percent of Rhode Island’s population, up from 12.4 percent in 2010, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The Ocean State has long been home to thriving Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Colombian, and Guatemalan communities, among others, each with its own unique traditions and identities within the Latino community that all contribute to Rhode Island’s shared culture and heritage.

At the conclusion of the walking tour, Senator Reed also praised the voice and vision of Marta V. Martínez, and her organization, RI Latino Arts, for helping to preserve culturally significant pieces of Rhode Island’s Latino history and ensuring that important stories of Hispanic heritage are widely shared.

“Marta really cares deeply about art and history and the intersection of the two. Through activism, education, and hard work, Marta has been a tremendous champion for Rhode Island’s Latino community.  She ensures Latino stories are told and the people who have made a difference are not overlooked for their historic contributions.  She also lifts up other artists to expand opportunity and ensure public art better reflects society and the world around us and is accessible to all,” said Senator Reed.

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