Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos: Opening Doors

On Monday, June 27th, Governor Dan McKee signed the $13.6 billion budget for the 2023 fiscal year, promising many benefits for Rhode Island residents. 

Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos appears as a guest on the Latino News Network podcast, â€œ3 Questions With…” to share details of the new budget and the benefits to the Latino community.

“I’m excited about this budget and the investment we’re making in the future of the state of Rhode Island,â€� said Matos as she shared the different elements and the impact the budget will have on the Latino community. 

“One of the areas in which I advocated for… and I’m very pleased to see that was included in the budget was the Cover All Kids campaign,� she said. This campaign will ensure that all children in the state of Rhode Island have access to health coverage regardless of their immigration status.

The Lt Governor shared other elements she advocated for that were included in the budget, like additional coverage for new mothers, investment specifically allocated for minority-owned small businesses, and a historical investment to improve homeownership in the state, taking an important step to eliminate critical disparities experienced by the Hispanic community.

 â€œI have seen first hand through my involvement with the housing advocate organizations… how building affordable housing transforms a community and transforms the quality of life of those individuals that live in that community. That’s why I make this such a priorityâ€�.

SUGGESTION: Sabina Matos: Leading The “Messy� Work Of Democracy

Lt Governor Sabina Matos was appointed as the 17th Lieutenant Governor of the state of Rhode Island on April 14, 2021, being the first Dominican American to hold this position in the United States.

“This appointment means so much to our community,â€� said Matos, deeply honored and humbled. “It means so much for our young people because they finally see someone that looks like them, that sounds like them, in a position of leadership in the state of Rhode Island…They can see that ‘this could be me, I can be this person one day.â€�

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Ilhiana Rojas Saldana is the Founder, and CEO of BeLIVE Coaching & Consulting.

She is the author of the collaborative book, Extraordinary Latinas: Powerful Voices of Resilience, Courage & Empowerment.

Rojas Saldana is also a member of the New England chapter of the Network of Executive Women (NEW).

Ilhiana is no stranger to the Latino News Network, she was a guest on the podcast “3 Questions With…”: Pulling Herself Up.

RILN Opinion+: Amelia Rose

Welcome to another episode of Rhode Island Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the community.

The importance of cultivating green space was highlighted during the pandemic as residents struggled to find safe and clean outdoor spaces. “ A lot of our work is focused on communities that have high immigrant populations already. All the work that we do we try to do in multiple languages,� explained Amelia on the demographics of the communities they serve. 

This week we spoke with Amelia Rose, Executive Director of Groundwork Rhode Island.

Groundwork is a network of local organizations that focuses on environmental stewardship and economic opportunity for underserved communities. Groundwork is one of the fortunate companies to not be significantly impacted by the pandemic due to the accessibility of landscape and compost services with minor supply chain issues.

Partnerships is the main avenue that Rose is taking with Groundwork in order to build relationships and provide services with as many communities as possible. Involved community members have the opportunity to become immigrant ambassadors to engage with the community and get more people involved. 

Low-income communities face a variety of challenges such as climate, air quality, substandard living conditions, polluted facilities, etc. “We call these communities environmental justice communities or front line communities that are closer to these hazards,� explains Rose. Groundwork gives young students the tools to be educated on important topics through educational programs. 

In conversations about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Groundwork strives to open up conversations involving new voices to improve the principles of leadership of the organization. Opening up positions of leadership that do not require a college degree is essential to opening doors for those that cannot afford to go to college. This promotes inclusivity for college students and non college students. 

People can get involved through the planting of trees in Providence, Central Falls, Johnston, Cumberland, Lincoln and other cities across the state. Other services such as compost, watering, and adding green space will allow residents to get involved. 


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Ray Nunez: Disrupting Dominant Culture Through Marketing

Ray Nuñez has a life-long passion for creative storytelling, inclusive community engagement, and equitable brand building. Since migrating to the United States from Los Reyes, Michoacán, Mexico in 1999, Nuñez has been recognized nationally for his innovative work in marketing, design, and leadership.

In 2015, Nuñez graduated from College Leadership Rhode Island and in 2017 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Design and Digital Media from Johnson & Wales University. 

After working in the media industry Nuñez decided to make a shift in his career towards entrepreneurship. 

Ray Nuñez delivers a speech on his entrepreneurial journey at Equity Institute‘s Regeneration event. Courtesy: LinkedIn

“In February of 2020, my wife and I quit our full-time jobs, left our health insurance, left all security,� Nuñez told Providence Monthly.

Nuñez and his equally-driven partner Taryn launched Nuñez, The People’s Agency, a multi-cultural marketing agency with an anti-racist focus that embodies the diversity and equity they wished to see globally. 

The agency helps mostly BIPOC-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate digital migration and overcome the systemic barriers in place that traditionally keep these firms from accessing resources. 

During the 2020 election, The People’s Agency played a key role in eliminating “Providence Plantationsâ€� from the state’s name, which was officially Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Nuñez said they launched a marketing plan, including customizing video messaging to each zip code in the state in order to best reach the majority of voters. The campaign was successful as the amendment passed with approximately 53 percent of the vote.

Nuñez’s bet is on the untapped creative potential born out of defiance of dominant culture. As such, he’s placing his chips in gathering a culturally diverse team at The People’s Agency to create a unique, fresh perspective on the way businesses and individuals tell their stories at the intersection of four focus points: data, design, disruption, and diversity.

“As the most influential industry, because we are everything you see, everything you read is marketing, it’s design, it’s communication, we knew that we had this huge responsibility to do good with that,� said Nuñez.

Nuñez sits on numerous boards in his effort to support marginalized communities, including the Latino Policy Institute and Rhode Island Mexican Association. He is the Vice President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a Community Advisory Board Member at the United Way of Rhode Island. Through these projects, he says he hopes to provide youth leadership opportunities and promote inclusivity.

Nuñez pictured with son Ramoncito | Courtesy: LinkedIn

Nuñez’s efforts led him to be named ‘2022 Who To Watch’ by Providence Monthly and receive a ‘Next Tech Generation 2021 Tech10 Award’ by The Tech Collective. He resides in Riverside, Rhode Island with his wife, their son Ramon, and their three dogs; Frida, Diego, and Pancho.


Ray Nuñez was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series.

LPI and RI Latino News are partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.

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Roe v. Wade Overturned: Rhode Island Reacts

The Supreme Court ruled Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, revoking the constitutional right to abortion and leaving individual states to decide themselves whether to restrict or ban abortion alltogether. 

The decision closely mirrored Justice Alito’s majority opinion draft which leaked in May of this year, making headlines and causing much political debate on reproductive rights and the separation of church and state.

According to the Washington Post, 13 states are expected to outlaw abortion within 30 days due to “trigger bansâ€� which were designed to take effect in the case that Roe was overturned. The Post reports that at least eight states banned abortion immediately after the decision was reached. 

President Biden reacted to the decision stating, “Now with Roe gone let’s be very clear, the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.â€� He ended his speech calling on Congress to act and urging people to vote. “This is not over,â€� he said.

What this decision means for Rhode Islanders

Abortion remains legal in Rhode Island.

In anticipation of the leaked draft coming to fruition, the Rhode Island Supreme Court sustained the Reproductive Privacy Act, a 2019 ruling that solidified Roe v. Wade into state law, in early May.

“Here in Rhode Island, we will always support a woman’s right to choose,� Governor Dan McKee said in response to the decision. “Despite [Friday’s] ruling, Rhode Islanders still have the right to access abortion health care services in our state thanks to the General Assembly codifying these protections into law – but all people should have the ability to make their own reproductive health care decisions, no matter where they live.�

Officials predict that states that choose to keep abortion legal will see an increase in visitors traveling to receive abortion and reproductive health services. 

“Planned Parenthood health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island said they’re already seeing patients from other states, particularly Texas, because those patients don’t have access to abortion care,â€� said health reporter Lynn Arditi on the Public’s Radio.

Arditi says that while these procedures remain legal, Rhode Island residents, especially low-income women, still face barriers in accessibility due to cost and insurance terms because Medicaid and other state health plans do not cover abortion services. 

“More than 85,000 women of child-bearing age in Rhode Island and their dependents are enrolled in state health insurance plans that prohibit abortion coverage, according to an analysis by The State Budget Office. So they could be forced to pay out of pocket for an abortion, which could prevent them from getting one,� she said.

Altercation at local protest goes viral

Protests arose around the nation almost immediately after Friday’s ruling, including one outside a federal courthouse building in Providence and another at the Rhode Island State House on Friday night.  

While the protests were mostly peaceful, an altercation at the State House protest is gaining national media attention.

Radio host Bill Bartholomew captured footage outside the State House in which it appears Providence police officer Jeann Lugo allegedly punches State Senate candidate Jennifer Rourke in the face.

On Saturday, Rourke shared the video on Twitter with the caption “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up.â€�

At the time of the alleged assault Lugo was running for the GOP nomination of the same seat as Rourke. He has since ended his campaign.

Gov. McKee tweeted  “The violence that occurred at a peaceful protest at our State House this weekend was outrageous. Violence of any kind is unacceptable and we will not stand for it. Thank you to our RISP for investigating this matter. Individuals responsible must be held accountable.â€�

Lugo was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct. He has been suspended from his job with pay while the investigation is pending.


Cover photo by Gayatri Malhotra from Unsplash

More Than A Bus Ride

About a month ago, news swirled that RIPTA would be suspending its express bus service to the beach. I felt a pain in my belly immediately, and a wave of nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks.

You see, growing up with a single mom with limited financial means and a fear of driving on the highway – a fear continuing to this day – the only time I ever got to go to the beach as a teenager was by taking the RIPTA bus from Central Falls to Scarborough. On hot Saturday mornings, we would pack a small cooler with homemade sandwiches, chips and water and walk to the bus stop on Broad Street. I distinctly remember being in awe as the bus drove down the highway, since it was one of the only times we ever left our one-square-mile city.

Today, I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that my mom and I had the opportunity to do this. Our little tradition. Nothing fancy, just a cooler with snacks and a day under the sun.

This is why it was so frustrating to read about the possible suspension of these services earlier this spring. And while the governor has restored the RIPTA express beach bus for this summer, it does beg the question, why don’t we think this bus service is as important or necessary as others? How will we ensure that this service is sustained and possibly expanded in years to come?

Among urban residents, 27% of Hispanics-Latinos report taking public transit daily or weekly, compared with only 14% of whites. Foreign-born urban residents are more likely than urban dwellers born in the U.S. to regularly use public transportation (38% vs. 18%)

Earlier this year, RIPTA began a pilot program offering Central Falls residents rides when they board a bus in the city. This pilot is set to go through March 2023. This is an incredible initiative for our state and city, especially since so many residents struggle to afford gas or rising vehicle prices. Continuing to invest in different methods of transportation and access routes for Rhode Islanders should be a priority. Ensuring that families have accessible information for special routes and programs through RIPTA is also imperative.

Last week, my parents, now newly retired, asked me to help them figure out the best RIPTA route from Central Falls to the beach and Newport. When I asked them why they wouldn’t simply drive, their answer was simple: “the bus seems easier and also sort of an adventure.� Naturally, my heart fluttered, and I immediately helped them map out the best routes to the beach and Newport.

This is the sentiment we need to recall as often as possible. For many of our families, RIPTA represents a cost-saving measure, an easier option, and for some, even an important tradition.


Cover photo by Andre Gaulin from Unsplash

Marcela Betancur

Marcela Betancur is the proud daughter of Colombian immigrants and currently serves as the director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

Publisher’s Note: More than a bus ride was first published on The Valley Breeze.

LPI and RI Latino News; partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.

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Juanita Montes de Oca: closing the education achievement gap

Juanita Montes de Oca serves as Generation Citizen’s Senior Manager of National Program and Curricular Development, where she supports national programming and leads org-wide curricular strategy and innovation.

“One of the things we do really well, and there’s always room for improvement, is creating a democratic classroom culture,� said Montes de Oca about the work Generation Citizen leads. “That’s ensuring the curriculum and the space that it’s taught in is student centered, it’s student driven,� she continued in a panel discussion on C-SPAN.

Montes de Oca says the education that GC provides is not action based; it’s project baaed learning. â€�(It’s) ensuring that students have the confidence, the space, the vocabulary, the activities to look at the different issues.â€� She talked about how the classroom creating a constitution, a living document for the semester is productive in the student’s academic experience.

Montes de Oca was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series. Before joining the GC team in 2017, she taught Action Civics and Social Studies in Providence middle schools for five years.

While teaching Action Civics at Roger Williams middle school, her students founded a Student Council, met with district officials to discuss strategies for increasing teacher diversity, and testified to the Superintendent and School Board about closing the achievement gap between Multi-Language Learners and their peers. What has made Montes de Oca truly most proud is the long-lasting impact GC has made on her students with whom she still maintains relationships today.

“At a time when there is little optimism in our political world, Juanita’s work is actively igniting the passion of students…,” wrote Tom Kerr-Vanderslice, Director of External Affairs at Sophia Academy. “In Juanita’s classes, students understood and worked to address the root causes of systemic issues in practical and creative ways. I saw her students debate with the Mayor of Providence about pension reform, advocate over the phone to their state representatives, and realize how they could use their voices to make change.”

As a passionate advocate for educational social justice, Montes de Oca has served on various advisory boards and working groups. As a Providence Public School parent and resident, she was also a member of the RIDE Community Design Team.

Montes de Oca holds a B.A. in Elementary Education with a content major in Social Studies from Rhode Island College, Feinstein School of Education. She is an alum of the Institute for Nonprofit Practice Core which equips nonprofit, public and social impact leaders with the skills, knowledge, and networks they need to make strategic, mission-driven decisions that center diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and affect meaningful change in their organizations and beyond.

Cover photo courtesy: Generation Citizen.

LPI and RI Latino News are partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.

Is there someone in the community you think we should feature? Send us your ideas to

RILN Opinion+: Bridget Kubis Prescott

Welcome to another episode of Rhode Island Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities are facing in Rhode Island.

This week we spoke with Bridget Kubis Prescott, Director of Education for Save the Bay. The boats of the Narragansett Bay are floating classrooms and give students the opportunity to learn about the bay’s marine life. 

Through studying the biodiversity of the Narragansett Bay, Prescott challenges students on what is considered healthy water, should they care, and what can they do to help save the bay? “School programs are important because these students are the future,â€� states Prescott. The pandemic challenged the organization to provide high quality education in an alternative format. Digital content for students and teachers provided accessibility for those that could not attend in person classes. 

Most education is focused on protecting and restoring Narragansett Bay, water quality, and the impact of climate change. These issues impact animal habitats and the well beings of human society. “Helping students understand the impacts of climate change on salt marshes is really important because salt marshes are the nursery to all animals that live in the bay,� explains Prescott.

Save the Bay continues to gain support from the community through involvement and hopes to continue their mission protecting and restoring Narragansett Bay. 


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Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: @savethebayri

Proud and Enviable: Latinos in the Military

Rhode Island Latino News (RILN) honor all U.S. military personnel, including the Hispanics-Latinos, who have served and died for our country.

Hispanics-Latinos are the fastest growing minority population in the military – a shift that aligns with larger demographic trends in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center.

Between 2021 and 2046, the share of veterans who are Hispanic-Latino is expected to double from 8 to 16 percent.

About 20,000 Hispanic-Latino men and women served in Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991, 80,000 in the Vietnam War in 1959-1973, and more than 400,000 in World War II in 1939-1945, reports Salud America.

Hispanics-Latinos have a “proud and indeed enviableâ€� record of military service that dates back all the way to the Civil War, according to a U.S. Army historical website.

Joe P. Martínez, the first Hispanic-Latino American to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. | Photo credit U.S. Army

Joe P. Martínez was the first Hispanic-Latino American (and Coloradoan) to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II. 

Originally from New Mexico, Martínez grew up in Colorado and was drafted into the Army when he was 21 years old. He fought in the final days of the spring 1943 Battle of Attu on the Aleutian Islands. 

On May 26, Martínez and his regiment were pinned down by enemy fire. In an attempt to secure a key defensive position from the Japanese, Martínez led several assaults on enemy-filled trenches. In his determination, Martínez sometimes eliminated entire trenches of enemies entirely by himself. The other men, inspired by his bravery, followed him. 

Martínez was mortally wounded when approaching the final enemy-occupied trench, but the defensive position was successfully taken by U.S. forces, leading to the end of the battle and – ultimately – Japanese occupation of the Aleutian Islands.

Carmen Conteras Bozak, the first Hispanic American to serve in the Women’s Army Corps. | Photo credit The University of Texas in Austin

Carmen Contreras-Bozak, a Puerto Rican from New York City, was the first Hispanic-Latina American to serve in what would later be known as the Women’s Army Corps.

Contreras-Bozak volunteered to go to North Africa with the cryptology, communications and interpretation company.

Contreras-Bozak was assigned to the Army Signal Corps, where she sent and received coded messages between Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters in Algiers and the battlefield in Tunisia. Their encampment regularly came under German fire , but she continued to work for the general until an infection sent her to a stateside hospital in 1945.

She was discharged as a technical sergeant, and received the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, two Battle Stars, a World War II Victory Medal, an American Campaign Medal, a WAAC Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal throughout her time in the Army.

Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate in part from Courage and Valor: 5 Stories of Hispanic American Military Heroes.

Do you know a Hispanic-Latino service person we should profile? Please send your suggestions to

Sazon De RI: Little Sister, Providence

Mallorca, chorizo and manchego cheese, dulce de leche, and alfajores are a taste of what’s on the menu of Little Sister. The café boasts a diverse selection of Latino-inspired dishes in Providence’s college district.

For the owner, Milena Pagán, a Puerto Rican native, the goal is to provide a taste of the Caribbean in her adopted home. “What I love about (Puerto Rican cuisine) is that it has three major influences,” Pagán shared during an interview with Hey Rhody. “There’s the Spanish influence (colonizers), the Taino influence (original inhabitants), and African (enslaved people) influence.”

Pagán moved to the mainland from her hometown, Caguas, to Boston in order to study chemical engineering at MIT, but decided to take a different career path and opened Rebelle Artisan Bagels in 2016 with her husband, Darcy Coleman.

Milena Pagan, the owner of Little Sister, right, and her husband Darcy Coleman (Photo Credit: Milena Pagan)

Pagán returned to the island to reconnect with her roots and get inspiration for putting creative twists and Latino flavor into Little Sister’s offerings.

“I spent thirteen or fourteen years away from the island, and I went back for six weeks. That was the longest I have been there since college,� Pagán told Rhode Island Monthly. “I had an excuse to go down there and spend a lot of time and study the food and get re-cultured, so I could come back and bring home some of those ideas.�

Little Sister has been a special hit among the growing Hispanic-Latino community in Providence, which, as of 2020, makes up 44 percent of the total population. 

“I’m very happy to have a lot of Puerto Ricans coming in here,� Pagán said. “Having a place where they can enjoy a really good plate of food, a place that speaks to them without talking down to them, is really valuable. It kind of feels like they’re in my house.�

Dishes at Little Sister that appeal to the eyes as much as they do to your taste buds.
(Photo Credit: Milena Pagan)

Publisher’s Notes: This story is in part, an aggregate of How This Rhode Island Restaurant Became a Destination for Puerto Rican Cooking.

Expanding Voter Access In RI Clears Another Hurdle

The Let RI Vote Act, which would permanently adopt measures used in 2020 during the pandemic, has cleared another hurdle as the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed the measure on a 52-13 vote Tuesday.

The goal of the bill is to expand voter access while ensuring integrity in state elections.

“As we saw in 2020,” said lead sponsor state Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-63), “early voting alternatives were used by a large portion of our population and the results of this change in voting patterns produced a smooth and secure election process that ensured that everyone’s vote was safely counted.”

But Republicans questioned the need for the bill and raised concerns about voter fraud. “We are sacrificing the security of our elections for convenience,� Representative Robert Quattrocchi, a Scituate Republican, said in opposing the bill.

“This is a major milestone in the history of voting rights in Rhode Island,” said Marcela Betancur, spokesperson for the Let RI Vote Campaign and executive director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

A key component of the measure include setting up a hotline in multiple languages that Betancur said, will provide accurate information in the language a person is most comfortable in, like foreign born Hispanics-Latinos who may not be proficient in English.

On the “3 Questions With…� podcast, Betancur shared insights on how the proposed legislation would break barriers keeping the Hispanic-Latino electorate and other marginalized communities from voting.

Improving Access and Opportunities to Vote in Rhode Island

In 2020, voting by naturalized U.S. citizens was approximately the same rate as those who are Hispanics-Latinos born in the United States, according to a City University of New York study.

Governor Dan McKee sent out statement following the House passage supporting the proposal, adding he’s “ready to sign it.�