Colombian American Cultural Society of RI celebrates 45th anniversary at gala

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Colombian American Cultural Society of Rhode Island is celebrating its 45th anniversary.

About 400 people attended a gala celebration held last Friday at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, including prominent Rhode Island leaders Congressman David Cicilline, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

Based in Pawtucket, the Colombian American Cultural Society of Rhode Island is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and was founded in 1973 to celebrate and preserve the cultural traditions of Colombia locally.

During Friday night’s event, four Colombian-Americans with ties to Rhode Island were honored with Colombian American Cultural Society of Rhode Island Excellence Awards.

Marielena Hincapié is the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center in California, which describes its mission as defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants in the United States. Hincapié immigrated from Medellín, Colombia, to Central Falls when she was a child.

John Florez is the founder and CEO of DrupalConnect, a Newport-based tech company. He was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, and raised in New York. Florez is also now a member of Newport’s City Council and a candidate for state Senate.

Gustavo Carreño left Barranquilla and settled in Rhode Island in 1964 after being recruited to work as a textile loom mechanic. Less than a decade later, he and several friends established the Colombian American Cultural Society of Rhode Island.

Orlanda Cabrera was the fifth Colombian to play Major League Baseball in the United States. He started his professional career with the Montreal Expos in 1997, but is likely best-known for being a member of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox team.

Friday’s event also marked the official launch of the Dr. Luis Torrado Scholarship Foundation.

Dr. Torrado moved from Barranquilla to Rhode Island in 1972 and had a distinguished career at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Notre Dame Hospital, and Women and Infants Hospital.

Six Rhode Island high school students were awarded scholarships in Torrado’s memory: Nadine Alvarez, Isabella Panzo, and Samuel Restrepo are graduating from Shea High School in Pawtucket; Bianca Cano, Jhoseth Lagares, and Sara Parra Martinez are gradating from Central Falls High School.

The event was organized by Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, Gonzalo Cuervo, and Luis Torrado. It was emceed by Eyewitness News Producer Diana Pinzón and Boston radio personality Alejandro Magno.