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Mayor Smiley taps former political rival as PVDFest grand marshal

Gonzalo Cuervo during his Providence mayoral campaign last year.Edward Fitzpatrick/Globe Staff

Gonzalo Cuervo came up short in last year’s race for mayor, but he’ll still be taking center stage at PVDFest next month.

Providence Mayor Brett Smiley plans to announce later today that Cuervo will be one of two grand marshals in the PVDFest parade that will take place over the pedestrian bridge downtown on Sept. 10, the final day of the city’s signature arts festival.

A spokesman for Smiley confirmed that Helen Baskerville-Dukes, who runs the Mount Hope Community Center and is one of the most influential community leaders in the city, will also be a grand marshal for the parade.


This year’s parade will honor Edward Mitchell Bannister, a prominent 19th century Black artist who founded the Providence Art Club.

Smiley’s decision to highlight Cuervo’s civic contributions is noteworthy because Cuervo came within 1,100 votes of beating Smiley in a hotly contested Democratic primary for mayor last year. Cuervo is now chief of staff to state Treasurer James Diossa.

The move isn’t just a nice gesture to a former political rival.

Smiley has faced a lot of pushback this summer for changes he has made to the popular festival, and he recently restored the ability for bars to hold block parties. Cuervo, a longtime booster of the arts in the city, has a lot of credibility with artists and the younger crowd in Providence. He might have the ability to help Smiley heal some of the self-inflicted wounds created by the PVDFest changes.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via email Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.