Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Giving Hispanics a Taste of Home as They Pursue Their AMERICAN DREAM

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Giving Hispanics a Taste of Home as They Pursue Their AMERICAN DREAM

Article excerpt

We are becoming a nation of entrepreneurs. The rise of candidates seeking MBA degrees is a testament to that. Many of those candidates are minorities who aren't exactly feeling the love from corporate America despite the institution of diversity programs in these same companies. These MBA candidates are following a long tradition of minorities and immigrants for more than a century who have opened their own businesses - from managing neighborhood grocery stores to running local companies providing goods and sendees to the community. Then as today, the odds against them were steep, but the rewards were enormous. This month, we salute a company that was founded by a Hispanic American 80 years ago and is still a family-owned business breaking new ground and expanding his vision to give Hispanics a taste of home as they pursue their American dream.

Prudencio Unanue, founder of Goya Foods, Inc., was born in northern Spain in 1886. When both the Spanish and the European economies became depressed, Unanue immigrated at the age of 17 to San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, in search of better employment opportunities and opened a small food distribution business. In 1918, he moved to New York City to enroll in the Albany Business School and in 1921, returned to San Lorenzo to marry Carolina Casal de Valdés whom he had met in Puerto Rico and whose parents had also emigrated from Spain.

In 1928, the Unanues moved to Brooklyn, and in 1935, Prudencio opened Unanue, Inc. on Duane Street in lower Manhattan. The next year, Unanue purchased the rights to the name, Goya, a brand of sardines he imported from Morocco. The transaction cost him only a dollar. From that humble beginning and transaction an empire grew creating the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States.

Now, it is run by Prudencios grandson, Bob, who is the company's president and CEO, and so Goya Foods remains very much a family affair. Bob's brother, Peter, is the company's executive vice president. Both men sat down with HO to talk about the rich history of the company and its commitment to authenticity through international outreach and targeted distribution. "In 1949, our grandfather and our uncles put up a factory in Puerto Rico to make pasteles to make gandules to do products from Puerto Rico that were indigenous and authentic," Bob explained.

Not surprisingly, the Unanue brothers have developed encyclopedic knowledge of what they call their primary cuisine. "Our product line and the bulk of our sales are in rice and beans, the dynamic duo of nutrition," Bob said, but the infinite variation of these products makes it tricky to manage a product line.

"Gandules come from India but are also from Caribbean-mainly from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico but not Cuba. Cubans are linked with black beans. Every group, even the Northern part of Puerto Rico, will eat red kidney beans and pink beans. Others will use more pinto beans. For an island 110 by 35 [miles], you have different cuisines around the island. It's the same in Mexico. You have the tropical, the Yuccatan, you have the desert, and each has a different cuisine," Bob explained. "We go to Peru often. We go to food shows. We're constantly in front of countries and cuisines to learn about what people's eating habits are and go to the source. …

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