If we had to find one person who represents Dominicans in Rhode Island, it would have to be Josefina Rosario. “Doña Fefa” is loved, respected and celebrated as the "Mother of the Dominican Community."
Dominicans are now the largest group of Latinos in Rhode Island. But in 1955, when Doña Fefa arrived in the state, she was convinced she was the first. Others soon followed.
Rosario opened a little store known as Fefa's Market in 1959, near the entrance to Roger Williams Park. She sold the foods she missed from home, including plátanos, yuca, coffee and cilantro, stocked Dominican newspapers, and gave the newcomers advice on finding a job, getting a driving license, and registering their children for school. She was a one-woman welcoming committee, and her store became a community center providing familiar comforts and advice in a new and strange world.
She and her Puerto Rican husband, Tony, often sponsored Dominican immigrants and housed them in their seven-room house at 145 Chester Street, on the corner of Broad Street, until they could find an apartment. Their daughters, fluent in English, served as translators when the newcomers needed help with myriad details of life in Rhode Island.