This blog post is a repost of an essay sent to my newsletter mailing list, sent out on July 13, 2020. To receive my newsletters directly in your inbox, sign up for my newsletter here. If you want to reshare this essay, please credit this website. Thank you for reading and sharing the work – I appreciate it and you!
The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people. -Cesar Chavez
As someone of Spanish descent and from a white, Mexican-born family, I feel I am uniquely qualified to state this controversial fact: Hailing from Spain is just not the same as being born in Mexico. Or El Salvador. Or Guatemala, or any of the other Western Hemisphere Latin countries.
Speaking Spanish may unite Spain with Central and South America, but being white and a Spanish speaker in the ever-racist United States is worlds different than being brown and speaking Spanish in the U.S. You might as well be Irish.
Simply put, it’s the difference between being descended from the colonizers versus being descended from the colonized.
So it was with great interest that I learned that Goya Foods, a company that markets itself as a “for-us-by-us” Hispanic operation, was founded by Spanish (as in the Iberian peninsula) immigrants who made a pit stop in Puerto Rico before settling in New York City. Its founders’ children still run the company to this day.
The company got into hot water last week when CEO Robert Unanue went to the White House for an initiative on Hispanic job creation and praised Donald Trump as a great leader.
His words ran counter to the very explicit position Trump has taken against Mexican and Central American migrants, both those currently in the U.S. and those coming to the U.S. to seek asylum.
The history of Spain’s colonialism, and the conflation of being Spanish with being Latinx, makes the Goya origin story – and how the company showed up at the White House – feel awfully different. And, this conflation of being Spanish with being Latinx, provides the foundation for Goya Foods’ problematic positioning today.
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