The giant Latino company Goya Foods has left some in the Puerto Rican community stewing after it pulled its 59-year sponsorship of New York City’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade, apparently over the parade’s honoring of Oscar López Rivera, officially freed today after serving 35 yeas in federal prison for alleged ties to terrorism.
Goya denied the connection, saying it was a business decision. “We make business decisions all the time,” spokesman Rafael Toro told the New York Daily News.
Press reports indicate, however, it’s all about Oscar, who parade organizers named “National Freedom Hero” earlier this month.
López Rivera, whom federal prosectors alleged was the bomb-making expert in the Puerto Rican pro-nationalist FALN group, is expected to lead the parade down Fifth Avenue. One of the FALN’s more infamous acts was the bombing of New York’s Fraunces Tavern, which left four dead and injured dozens of others.
Steaming over Goya
Goya’s move surprised parade organizers, who were left steaming. “We are very disappointed at Goya for pulling out of our parade via a phone call and with no rationale other than ‘it was a business decision,’ ” the parade board said in a statement, according to the Daily News.
But, really, it was the parade organizers who politicized the parade by choosing López Rivera, resulting from the Puerto Rican community’s desire to whitewash López Rivera’s notorious past.
Most parade honorees have been celebrities or entertainers – Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernández was named this year’s Athlete of the Year and salsa star Gilberto Santarosa is the Grand Marshall.
Why would a major food company like Goya give a can of beans about an alleged terrorist enough to tie its well-established brand to his name? That’s loco.
“Which headline would you prefer as a corporate global giant in today’s climate: ‘Goya ends PR parade sponsorship after 60 years’ or ‘Goya funds celebration honoring convicted terrorist’ … #SpinGame,” writes Christina Hernández, community organizer and social media marketing specialist, in answer to a Facebook post.
She cautioned community activists to lay low. “Let it pass and then renegotiate for next year. Last thing you want to do is raise the heat so much that other sponsors follow suit.”
Others defended Goya’s right to pick its sponsorships. “It’s their money they should have the right to decide how its allocated without explanations !!!” said Carlos Nazario of Acacia Network.
Some others have a beef to pick with Goya. “When I used to work at Hispanic magazines I visited their offices in NJ so many times I lost count and they never supported Hispanic magazines,” wrote Samí Haiman-Marrero, also a marketer. “And that’s OK…they spend their money however they wish, and I spend my money on other brands. No tiene que ser GOYA para ser bueno! LOL,” she said playing off Goya’s slogan, “Si es Goya tiene que ser bueno!” If it’s Goya it has to be good.
Goya Foods Links to Puerto Rican Community
Severing its ties with New York’s Puerto Rican parade doesn’t necessarily mean Goya is cutting its links with the Puerto Rican community, which are deep. Company founders Prudencio and Carolina Unanue first migrated to Puerto Rico after leaving Spain in the 1930s before relocating permanently to New York.
Goya products – from olive oil and tomato sauce to beans and sazón – could be found in New York City bodegas patronized by the Puerto Rican community long before landing on mainstream supermarket shelves. The company still has a Puerto Rico manufacturing and distribution plant.
Goya has paid tribute to Puerto Rico’s Borinqueneer soldiers and beloved baseball player the late Roberto Clemente. It has donated tens of thousands of pounds of food in the name of Puerto Rican artists Marc Anthony and Cheyenne. It has donated foods here in Central Florida, home to Florida’s largest concentration of Puerto Ricans.
Meanwhile, controversy is not new to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc., which has generated questions in the past over its alleged mishandling of funds and sponsors.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor