Goya CEO’s support for Trump leaves many Latinos feeling sting of betrayal

Goya CEO’s support for Trump leaves many Latinos feeling sting of betrayal

Mexican-American cookbook author and food blogger Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack has been recommending Goya Foods products with her recipes for a decade. After all, they’re available in nearly every supermarket.

“It’s the most recognized Hispanic brand in the United States,” she said.

Over the years, firms representing Goya approached her about a possible partnership, according to Marquez-Sharpnack, who is considered a “brand influencer.”

But Goya would only compensate her with its products, which she found “disheartening” because she wanted to partner with an Hispanic brand.

“I never worked with them because I can’t pay the bills with frijoles,” said Marquez-Sharpnack, who nonetheless continued to recommend Goya products in her recipes.

But she now counts herself among the many Latinos who say they won’t buy Goya products after Goya CEO Robert Unanue appeared Thursday in the White House Rose Garden and praised President Donald Trump.

“I’m certainly looking for alternatives that I will recommend versus Goya,” said Marquez-Sharpnack, a native Texan who now lives in Colorado.

Goya CEO compares Trump to his grandfather

Unanue’s appearance at the Washington ceremony announcing the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative sparked outrage on social media.

The hashtags #Goyaway and #BoycottGoya exploded. Prominent Hispanic American leaders called for a boycott.

Unanue compared Trump to his grandfather, a Spanish immigrant who founded the company in 1936.

“We are all truly blessed … to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder,” Unanue said Thursday.

“That is what my grandfather did. He came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper. We have an incredible builder, and we pray. We pray for our leadership, our president.”

That Unanue would compliment Trump angered many people, especially because the President is unpopular among Hispanic Americans.

“Trump has said that Latinos, or Mexicans specifically, are bringing in the drugs, are rapists, are criminals and for (Unanue) to stand there and say that Trump reminds him of his grandfather … It goes against everything I think we should be doing for our own community,” Marquez-Sharpnac said.

Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president and New York City mayoral candidate noted that, “Goya is a brand that was always synonymous with and harkened back to the days of Puerto Ricans and Cubans and even the earliest Dominicans coming to New York.”

“Goya was it,” said Ferrer, who is of Puerto Rican descent. “My wife is very brand loyal: ‘No. I only want Goya this. I only want Goya that.’ Now that makes it very, very difficult when a CEO does these things. But they’ve always had this tone deafness to their own community.”

He won’t apologize for praising president

The calls for a boycott intensified Friday after Unanue told “Fox & Friends” that he was “not apologizing” for praising Trump. He called the boycott movement “suppression of speech.” He noted that he had accepted an invitation from Michelle Obama in 2012 to an event promoting the former first lady’s healthy-eating initiative.

“You’re allowed to talk good or talk praise to one president but” praise another and “all the sudden that’s not acceptable,” he told Fox News.

“If you’re called by the president of the United States, you’re going to say, ‘No I’m sorry, I’m busy, no thank you?’ I didn’t say that to the Obamas and I didn’t say that to President Trump.”

A Goya spokesman said the purpose of Unanue’s appearance was to announce the donation of 1 million cans of Goya chickpeas and 1 million other food products to American food banks in support Trump’s initiative. Unanue said Goya wanted to help families hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Goya did not comment on the calls for a boycott.

Some Hispanics stand by Goya

“I don’t think (Goya executives) really understand how supportive the entire community has been of this company,” Ferrer said.

“So yeah you give a little charity that’s nice. But there’s a whole lot more to that than maintaining your relationship with a community that has supported you and patronized you for decades.”

Ferrer said he will turn to other Hispanic food brands — despite his wife’s loyalty to Goya.

“I do the shopping, by the way,” he said.

But some Hispanics are standing by Goya.

Jorge Masvidal, a mix martial arts fighter of Cuban and Peruvian descent, tweeted early Saturday: “Actions of @GoyaFoods speak louder than the #woke mob. My people don’t get influenced by those that don’t know. They’ve been helping our people when we needed it most.”

Goya has ‘has a lot of crossover’

Goya, based in Secaucus, New Jersey, is the nation’s largest Hispanic owned company. It’s well known for the slogan, “If It’s Goya. It Has To Be Good.” The company site said it offers 2,500 food products from the Caribbean, Mexico, Spain, Central and South America.

“Goya became the predominant brand in all supermarkets, primarily for Latinos,” said John Stanton, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“They had a certain level of authenticity and before you knew it, they had a lot of crossover. A lot of Anglos wanted to make halfway decent Hispanic food and saw this as the choice, the product to buy.”

But Trump has repeatedly come under fire for attacking immigrants from Mexico and Central America as criminals and what critics have called his indifference to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“It’s hard to believe that someone who’s primary market is going to be exactly the community that Trump has been abusing, that that company would ingratiate themselves to him,” Stanton said.

“The question is what won out? Unanue’s financial strength or his Hispanic background. It looks like to me it was his financial background. He’s an entrepreneur and a businessman and, in my opinion, a very good businessman. But he looks like he sold out.”

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