Manuela Raposo was born in Manhattan, New York City in 1970 to Dominican immigrants. Her mother faced many struggles when she first arrived in the United States in 1967, three years before Manuela was born. “I love to hear my mom tell the story….she is such a survivor”, states Manuela.
Manuela moved to Rhode Island when she was 10 years old because her mother sought a better life for Manuela and her siblings.
“She was a single parent, and she didn’t like the crime and delinquency in the areas we were living in New York City. She heard that Providence was a calmer place to raise your children and that there were more opportunities in Rhode Island for work and housing.”
Upon first arriving to Rhode Island, Manuela and her family stayed with a cousin that was already established in Providence. During the beginning they moved around a lot, until her mother was able to buy a house in the Mt. Hope area, which they fixed up over the years.
Manuela graduated from Central High School in Providence and at the age of 18 enrolled in the U.S. Army where she was stationed in Germany for three years. After the military Manuela moved to her parents’ country of origin, the Dominican Republic, where she went to Medical school and became a General Practitioner in Family Medicine for roughly 10 years.
At 32, she came back to Rhode Island in 2002 to be reunited with her mother and family.
“Things didn’t change too much in Rhode Island while I was away, but the Latino population grew immensely and I felt the Latino presence more than when I had left”.
Rhode Island has always been home for her. “I am a Rhode Islander. It is a place that I knew, where my family was, a place that I felt comfortable. Rhode Island has a unique dynamic in that it is small and you know people, so your network can grow quickly and you can get things done faster than in other places”.
However, Manuela’s return stateside wasn’t without challenges. When she came back to Rhode Island, Manuela felt a loss of her professional identity because she wasn’t able to use her credentials, knowledge and skills that she had gained in the Dominican Republic with her medical degree and experience as a doctor. “Finally I said, there must be a way. I did a lot of research and had my credentials validated. Then, I began applying for jobs that were worthy of my education level, instead of being told to apply for jobs at McDonalds.”
Her personal experience played a large role in what she calls her destiny – helping professional immigrants find work. Manuela also saw other family members such as educators and philosophers that came from the Dominican Republic and ended up working in factories here. “I empathize so much with my students at Dorcas Place.”
Over the years Manuela has sat on many community boards and committees to give back and stay connected with the community. She is currently on the board of RI Nursing Institute Middle College, the RI Board of Nursing and is also involved with the RI Professional Latinos Association (RIPLA), among others.
When asked about the person that has inspired her most, Manuela gives credit to her mother. “She is my idol and I admire her so greatly for her struggles and everything she has done in her life.”
Manuela plans on staying in Rhode Island for a while and would love to do more with youth. “I feel very strongly about the next generations being more involved and aware of their impact in our community – how every step they take really defines the future of Rhode Island.” An important piece of advice she would give them – “Don’t be afraid of being involved in something that you are really interested in and learn about your culture and who you are.”
Manuela currently resides in Warwick.