Latinos in the United States account for $1.5 trillion of buying power and were slated to hit $1.7 trillion in by 2020, according to Forbes, if not for the disastrous effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Whether it’s $1.5 trillion or $1.7 trillion, it’s still a lot of moolah, greater than or equal to the gross domestic product of some nations.
A University of Georgia buying power analysis published in 2019 states that Mexican-Americans accounted for nearly $900 billion of Latino purchasing power nationwide, about equal to their percentage of the Latino population, which is about 64 percent. Puerto Ricans are the second-largest group, commanding $158 billion. This doesn’t include Puerto Rico.
But we know that Hispanics are being hit hard by COVID-19 as well as the high unemployment that has followed. In June the Hispanic unemployment rate was 27 percent, down from a high of 37 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. June has been far better than May, but both figures translate directly into lost income.
The fact that Latinos have beaucoup dollars to spend should not be lost on companies and retailers. More important, it should NEVER be lost on Hispanics. We have dólares and we should be judicious about how we spend them, bolstering companies and causes we wish to support.
That brings me to the topic of GOYA Foods whose CEO Robert Unanue commented at the White House that the nation is “truly blessed” to have a president who is a builder, sparking outrage. He doubled down on his statements the next day, adding that the reaction over his comments was tantamount to a “suppression of speech.”
Many Latinos are angry about Unanue’s deafness of tone considering that Latinos are among the worse hit by COVID-19, are suffering high unemployment, and have been the target of Trump’s ire since day one: Mexicans, Latino immigrants, DACA arrivals, and the separation of families and children at our border.
Latinos are GOYA’s business base, and Unanue shouldn’t take that for granted. The company may have expanded into non-Hispanic markets, but in the end it’s Latinos who are repeat customers.
Many are calling for a boycott of GOYA, which was launched by Unanue’s Spanish immigrant grandparents in Manhattan’s Lower East Side after they initially settled in Puerto Rico. The company still has a major manufacturing and distribution center in Puerto Rico. Not coincidentally, the Lower East Side was a Puerto Rican migration hub in the mid-20th century.
The great majority of Latinos have at least one GOYA product in their pantry, so GOYA would be hurt by a boycott. The fact that GOYA donates tons of food each year to different causes is terrific, but doesn’t make up for support of disastrous public policies and a condescending attitude toward Latinos.
Whether Hispanics decide to boycott GOYA or not is an individual choice. My point is that Latinos should always remember their $1.5 trillion in U.S. purchasing power – or $158 billion for Puerto Ricans. That’s not chump change, and where or how you spend your dollars can effect much change and good. As Glinda the Good Witch said to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “You’ve always had the power.”
˜˜María Padilla, Editor