It may not have been the wisest political move---especially considering that Latinos are his number one consumers. But, last week---with the President just feet away in a Rose Garden ceremony---Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue said it. “We are all truly blessed,” he said, “to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder.” Yes. Unanue called Trump a builder.
Unanue’s gushing praise got nearly immediate attention. Was he talking about the same President who characterized Latinos as rapists (Mexicans), called others (Puerto Ricans) “grossly incompetent,” and dog-whistled to his base about “caravans” (El Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Mexicans) coming from south of the border? Without thinking the Goya Foods CEO launched his own boycott---against his own brand.
But even had Unanue remained silent and kept his presidential homily to himself, the majority of Latinos might still have had a negative opinion about this president, especially older Latinos who had issues with Trump long before last week’s Rose Garden love letter.
“His narcissistic personality has completely taken over,” said former Denver City Council President Ramona Martinez. “He needs people to admire him.” Martinez has moved in Latino political circles for years, including three terms on Council---two as President---and several more among national Latino Democratic power brokers. Her checklist of Trump disappointments is long. The economy. “People wouldn’t be lining up for food if it was so great.” Education. “Paying off college loans,” and “subsidies are going to private schools,” both bother her. Health care. “The ACA (Obamacare) comes in and the first thing he does is try to make it illegal.” Martinez also had harsh words for Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis in which Latinos make up a significant number of its victims.
Retired Denver city worker and radio personality, Debra Gallegos, was willing to give Trump a chance. “I’ve lived through several Republican presidents,” she said. “I figured we could get through this, too.” But it’s been a bumpy ride. “His non-stop attacks on immigrants,” have bothered her. “Putting poor children in cages. This has to stop! His attacks on environmental laws.” Trump’s wall has also troubled her. Gallegos said Trump only wants to do right for “his people,” and not all Americans.
“To be very honest,” said retired Denver businessman, Ron Montoya, “I never liked him as an individual, but I thought that he would do the job.” Montoya, a member of the Colorado Business Hall of Fame and former President of the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said even Trump’s decidedly, and historically low poll numbers don’t tell the whole story. “We are the laughingstock of the world. Nobody has respect for the United States anymore.” Among Montoya’s evidence that Trump is not up to the job---and not just on Latino issues---is the way he treats his own staff. “He’s just not a nice person,” he said. People in his inner circle, “have come back and written books---even his niece.” “He’s hurting, not helping people.”
Longtime education administrator and Metropolitan State University of Denver retiree, Yolanda Ortega, called Trump’s presidential record a disappointment. “From the start, it became clear he was not going to be the leader for all our citizens,” she said. Trump, she said, “speaks in decisive language by lumping those who don’t agree with him as liberal, Democrats and names that are just plain mean. He doesn’t appear to care about offending certain groups of individuals.” Ortega said her disappoint goes beyond Trump and to officials “who, I’m sure disagree or are shocked by his words or actions but do nothing.”
Trump continues to hold on securely to a wedge of the Latino voting pie apparently unmoved by many or even most of his controversial words and positions on Latino issues, including immigration.
A recent Telemundo poll asking Latinos who they plan to vote for in 2020 showed that as many as 30 percent are standing firm with Trump. In recent President elections, Republicans have done mostly well but rarely great in attracting Latinos. In the 2008, the late Senator John McCain could only manage 31 percent of Latino voters. In 2012, Mitt Romney got 27 percent of the Latino vote. Former President George W. Bush, so far, leads all of his predecessors and remains the benchmark for wooing Latinos to the tent. In 2004, he won 40 percent of the Latino vote. Being from Texas where Latinos may become a majority in the next decade certainly played a role but winning four in ten Latinos remains the gold standard for Republicans in presidential elections.
Meanwhile, the Trump camp is standing firm with the Goya CEO. Within hours of Unanue’s praise for the President and the start of the boycott, the President’s daughter, Ivanka, tweeted a photo of herself posing with a can of Goya beans. A short while later, Trump himself was seen on Twitter with an array of the company’s products on the Resolute Desk and tweeting, “Goya Foods is doing GREAT. The Radical Left smear machine backfired, people are buying like crazy!” A wishful and unproven claim.
Whether the Goya boycott hurts or helps remains to be seen. Several high profile Latino politicians and personalities, including Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Chef Jose Andres, have taken positions in support. But other well known names, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are standing with the brand.
The 84-year-old food giant was started as a specialty brand by Unanue’s Spanish immigrant father and has grown into the country’s 377th largest brand, employing more than 4,000 workers and having a net worth or more than $1.5 billion.