María Rivera Becomes Rhode Island’s First Latina Mayor

Maria Rivera BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Providence Journal.

The smallest state in the country has made history. The first Latina Mayor, Maria Rivera, was sworn in on January 4.

Rivera assumed her position privately and was sworn in by Central Falls Probate Judge Bruce Sawyer. Later on in the day due to the ongoing pandemic, the ceremony was Livestreamed through Facebook and Vimeo at Central Falls High school where she was sworn in by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

Gorbea applauded the city for embracing diversity, saying “One of the wonderful things about Central Falls is that you can have different foods within the range of one square mile.” Former Mayor James Diossa is the son of Colombian parents. Rivera’s arrival is proof diversity in government can be done. 

In a statement, Rivera said, “I have hope because the incredible people in Central Falls have helped me recognize what’s important to fight for.”

Rivera was formerly a city councilor. Her parents migrated from Puerto Rico to the Island, where she grew up. Graduating from the high school in 1995, Rivera went on to get her Associates Degree from CCRI and later received her Public Administration degree from Roger Williams University.

She focuses on leadership development and increasing opportunities for small businesses in her town. The idea is for Central Falls to grow its tax base and reduce the car tax as well as their property taxes.

The town of Central Falls is around 1.3 square miles. With a population of 20,000, it did not luck out from a tough hit by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Since March, more than 3,200 residents have tested positive and have an almost 30% positivity rate, making this town the highest in the state.

During the inauguration, Rivera asked for a moment of silence for those who weren’t alive to see the ceremony. As she presented Mayor Diossa with a portrait of him, she said, “I would not be here. I knew that someday, this dream could become a reality, and today is that day.”

Rivera continued by reminiscing of the days she took ESL classes so she could keep up with school, which has brought her this far. In her closing remarks, she mentioned the honor she felt for the citizens who voted for her and trusted her to face the problems of the city.

A new diverse democracy starts from the ground up, even in the smallest of cities and states.