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Theresa Agonia: Rhode Island Underestimates Its Latino Community

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


According to Guest MINDSETTER™ Theresa Agonia, RI immigrants are make real contributions to the economy by starting new businesses.

As a First-generation Portuguese-American, I was recently caught off guard when The White House released a report entitled “The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: Impacts for Rhode Island Families.” In this report, I learned that 14.4% of RI business owners are immigrants. According to the report, “these businessmen and women generate $360 million in income for Rhode Island each year." This made me think about my late father, Manuel Agonia, who ran a successful construction company for 27 years before falling ill with cancer. My father, the same man who came to this country in the 1970’s with a fourth-grade education, a suitcase, no knowledge on the English language, and a dream, was part of a percentage benefiting the future work-force of RI. This made me think of others in the state with the same impact but who might have had a different immigration road to travel.

The times are changing and the jobs that were here when my father arrived in the United States are disappearing or are gone altogether. Still, immigrants like my father are part of this wave of demographics that are changing Rhode Island. I had not really thought of this as deeply until my recent graduation from Roger Williams University and after taking on a job at the school's Latino Policy Institute. LPI is committed to generating and communicating non-partisan data of Latinos in Rhode Island.

Turning the tides

I read in The White House report that in 2011, “immigrants started 28% of all new U.S. businesses in 2001, despite accounting for only 13% of the U.S. population”. Specific to the smallest state in the nation, the Census showed us that from 2000-2010 there was a 47% increase in Latinos. The Census also declared that Central Falls had the largest number of Latinos and became the first Latino majority city in Rhode Island. Central Falls: the same city that provided my father his first home in America. The Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University is in the process of developing an infographic on workforce participation due for release in early September. I think many Rhode Islanders will be surprised at the findings related to labor participation and Latinos in RI.

As the percentages of Latinos increase in Rhode Island and immigrants continue to pass the “Welcome to Rhode Island” sign on the highway for the first time or as they pass it again, I’m left with the uncertainty of whether or not our state has noticed the same change. Do they really know who their neighbors are? Do people make the connection between demographic changes and economic development? If not, why not? Do they lack credible information and data to tell the whole story? I am happy that I stumbled upon my experience at the Latino Policy Institute at RWU, where I am learning that Latinos are young business owners, state contributors, scholars, and people changing the face of our neighborhoods..

The bottom line is this: demographics are changing in Rhode Island, but do we really know what that means?


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It is admirable to advocate for Latinos, but I hope that you are as equally motivated to advocate for the Portuguese citizenry in our area. While a significant percentage of the population, Portuguese residents are not afforded some of the benefits of "Minority" status.

Comment #1 by barnaby morse on 2013 08 21

When I was younger, "Portuguese" was a minority status - one I was proud to check off - today you do not see this listed at all. Sometimes I think about checking "other", but then, no, several generations 'in' now, and we are all Americans...

Comment #2 by Nancy Thomas on 2013 08 21

Theresa your dad is “Beaming” with pride for you in Heaven right now.

His wonderful daughter speaking of her loving father that clearly makes the point with hard facts that the great American melting pot is alive and well.

Her point is that Latino’s are leading the new wave of immigration that is highly contributing to the success of America.

Theresa Article is not about choosing one minority it is about the greatness in immigration as it has a major hand in LEADING America forward, while preserving the positive aspects of the “Melting Pot”. All new waves of immigration have faced prejudice and difficulties and the fact that nationalities do not stay the minority is part of that process.

I am excited to se the next Article from this talented young American Lady.

It seems that The Latino Policy Institute made an excellent choice in hiring this very Bright and beautiful young lady. Who is positively on her game.

Stephen T. Day

Comment #3 by Donna Day on 2013 08 21

THE LATINO INSTITUTE honors the mayor of Prov who closed the pool used by little poor kids..perhaps Steve Day could fork over his pension & salary from joe Paolino to fund the pool since he supports such distinguished aka extinguished communities...Steve Day of the Nickerson House until he ripped them off...you FOOL

Comment #4 by frank bentley on 2013 08 22


You must be the sequel coming for sleepless in Seattle

called "clueless in Providence"!

The Article is about immigrants and their positive effect on America,

Theresa works for a legitimate agency and you are an obivous biggot.

Attack me and I can and will defend my self, attacking a great Agency set up to help people where Theresa works is not only unfair to her but just plain STUPID,

Theresa it appears was just hired a few months ago.



Too bad you woke up incoherent and groggy for the facts. Were you bullied as a child or the Bully????

Either way you have yet to grow up?

Stephen T. Day

Comment #5 by Donna Day on 2013 08 22


wrote his response before my comment???????????

Either he has ESPN for nitwits or he truly woke up from a fog, in a fog!


against a Woman, working for a living to help better other people's lives.

To me that is honorable and sincere work, What do you do read dirty magazines to clean your mind?

When you wake up in 10 years, take a shower before you try to enter an intelligent discussion. That w, hopefully you will not come across as dumb as you really are.

Stephen T. Day
Working for a living
David Cicilline could use a guy like you.

Comment #6 by Donna Day on 2013 08 22


I'll bet you talk about football referee's when they make a good call!

You seem to have a hard time focusing on the subject.

Lation Policy Institute

Immigrants and Success in building America

Working for a living

Honest and clear debate

Not in your vocabulary if you want to be FRANK with me?

Leave latino's and the Institute alone next time you want to attack me


Frankly speaking this is why our kids our failing in school!

Stick to the topic Frank or do what you do best, NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stephen T. Day

Comment #7 by Donna Day on 2013 08 22

yikes..I touched the right nerve

Comment #8 by frank bentley on 2013 08 22

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