Filed Under Businesses

Lyon Fabrics

Q. Which small Rhode Island city elected a 27-year-old Latino mayor in 2013? A. Central Falls, where 60 percent of residents are Latino, most of them Colombians. Q. Why are so many Colombians in one city that measures one square mile?

It all started in the early 1960s when Jay Giuttari, son of a Central Falls mill owner, was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he became friendly with the son of a Colombian mill owner. After graduation, Jay worked in Colombia for a while. He discovered that local weavers were using machinery similar to that in his father's mill and that they were very skilled at repairing the old looms. Meanwhile back in Central Falls, his father was finding it difficult to replace retiring workers; their children were going to college, becoming teachers and lawyers and doctors, rather than going into the mills.

Giuttari 's solution: hire Colombians, and the first three arrived on a cold March day in 1965. Lyon Fabrics closed in the 1990s, but for over 20 years the mill welcomed skilled Colombia weavers to work the machines. They became the nucleus of the Colombian community in Central Falls.

Images

Lyon Fabrics Textile Mill This photo, taken on Roosevelt Avenue, shows the front of the Lyon Fabrics Textile Mill in the modern day.
Jay Giuttari with his daughter, Lori Jay Giuttari, shown on the right in this photo, helped to increase Colombian immigration to Central Falls beginning in the 1960s. Source: Marti­nez, Marta V., and Albert T. Klyberg. Latino History in Rhode Island: Nuestras Raí­ces p. 40
Pedro Cano Pedro Cano was one of the first Colombians recruited for Lyon Fabrics, circa 1965. This photo, taken within four years of arriving in America, shows Pedro driving a big car.

Location

467 Roosevelt Ave Central Falls, RI 02863

Metadata

“Lyon Fabrics,” Rhode Tour, accessed October 3, 2022, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/89.