Cicilline Issues Statement on Passing of Doña Fefa

Friday, December 14, 2018


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Josefina "Doña Fefa" Rosario

Josefina "Doña Fefa" Rosario passed away at the age of 90 on Thursday, December 13.

Rosario is credited with helping launch the first wave of immigration from the Dominican Republic to the United States in 1955.

Rosario and her husband Tony are all credited with sponsoring families to come to the U.S. and gave them free room and board until they were able to find jobs.

Congressman David Cicilline released the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the death of my good friend, Josefina Rosario, who was also known as “Doña Fefa” to countless friends and admirers. Fefa was the mother of Rhode Island’s Dominican American community. She and her husband, Tony, supported many families who came to the United States in search of a better life. I was proud to work with her throughout my time in public service. Her death is an enormous loss for our state.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with Fefa’s family and all who loved her today.”


Josefina Rosario, affectionately known as "Doña Fefa" among generations of Dominicans who currently live in Rhode Island, has been credited with launching the first wave of immigration from the Dominican Republic, beginning as early as 1955. She and her husband, Tony are remembered by many people who say they sponsored their families to come to the United States; gave them free room and board until they were able to find jobs; and made sure that they had everything they needed.

In 1930, Rafael Trujillo came to power in the Dominican Republic and established one of the longest-lasting dictatorships in Latin America. It endured until 1961, when he died. It was during Trujillo's reign of terror that many Dominicans, fearing they would be killed by Trujillo's men, first began to flee the Dominican Republic for the United States. 

Fefa was personally affected by Trujillo's power when in 1937, her father was murdered by secret servicemen while recovering in the hospital from gunshot wounds. Her mother was left alone to raise 10 children, and later became paralyzed when she suffered a stroke. Fefa, the youngest child, eventually made her way to New York City where she had an older sister waiting for her, and where she met her husband.


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