Meet the Young Latino Mayor Who Is Bringing Back His Rhode Island City
EXCERPT: NBC News
James Diossa became the mayor of Central Falls in 2012 at the age of 27.
His victory came at a time when the city was shocked by scandal; former mayor Charles Moreau had been indicted on corruption changes and the city had declared bankruptcy.
“I became the first Latino mayor, first youngest mayor,” Diossa told NBC News. “It's been a privilege to be able to serve this community at such a young age and being a Latino as well.”
he son of immigrant textile mill workers from Colombia, Diossa never imagined that he would become a politician, let alone a mayor. In 2008, inspired by Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency and fresh out of college, he decided to run for city council because he felt the young people of Central Falls were not being represented by the local government.
Central Falls has a rich history; it was home to Polish, Irish and French-Canadian immigrants. Today, it’s the home of a significant number of Latinos, many of them from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
"It is striking and inspiring," Affigne said of Diossa, as well as of fellow Jorge Elorza, the current mayor of Providence, the state's capital. Breaking into local politics is crucial as Latinos try to increase their numbers, said Affigne.
"I had to think fast on how do we not only turn the page in this bankruptcy chapter, but also keep the people excited, motivated [and] safe about the future of Central Falls,” said Diossa.
Diossa worked on improvements to infrastructure, got better sanitation equipment, hired more police officers and even opened a tutoring center for children whose parents are immigrants and don’t speak English fluently.
“I value the fact that people helped me climbed the ladder and I give back," said Diossa. "I encourage Latinos to run for office.”