On July 10, Goya Foods CEO Robert “Bob” Unanue praised Donald Trump in a move which left many in the Latinx community in a state of surprise. During their meeting at the White House, Unanue said the current U.S. president is “a great builder” and someone who the country is “blessed” to have in charge.
Reaction to Unanue’s words was immediate, with many calls to boycott the New Jersey-based brand. Meanwhile, others looked to Google for replacement recipes for some of Goya’s most popular products, like its adobo and sazón flavorings.
Though many Latinx home cooks can’t imagine their kitchen without Goya, this episode is a much-needed reminder that the flavors from our cultures are not dependent on a corporation. Before Goya, Latinx families made products from scratch—and many still do so to this day. Our abuelas know the right combinations of natural herbs and spices to make the seasonings which Goya packages and that frijoles left to soak overnight hit so much better than the stuff from a can.
Leaving Goya behind opens the market to competing brands that have chosen to not align themselves with a leader who has aimed destructive rhetoric at the Latinx community. Where Goya has taken over a chunk of the Hispanic foods aisles at major supermarkets and neighborhood bodegas, supporting imported brands from our families’ countries of origin can help them grow and offer more product options to U.S. consumers looking for alternatives. Dumping Goya also offers a chance at removing brand loyalty from notions of Latinidad and “authentic” cooking.
Unanue’s words are also a good reminder that Hispanic does not equal Latinx. Unaue is the U.S.-born grandson of Prudencio Unanue Ortiz, who was born in Spain and arrived in Puerto Rico before migrating to the United States. While there is a Hispanic influence in Latin America due to colonialism, this identity does not equate to the Latinx experience in the diaspora, which is racially and culturally diverse.
With his speech, Unanue put on display how disconnected he is from his company’s consumer base. While the CEO’s words praised Trump as a “builder,” the truth is the president has only built animosity toward Latinx communities. As you know, the Trump 2016 presidential bid began with the infamous speech in which he called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers. Those words laid the foundation for regular abuse toward people of Latin American origin. In addition, since taking office, Trump has ignored the damage inflicted on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria, locked Central American children in cages at ICE detention centers and undermined the legitimacy of DACA with an attempted dismantling of the Obama-era executive order.
While the company slogan reads “Si es Goya tiene que ser bueno” (“If it is Goya it has to be good”), Unanue has sent a clear message that Goya has chosen to endorse harm to the Latinx community. Goya has gone from being “good” to turning its back on those who trust the brand, which may not be good for their bottom line in the long run.
That being said, here are some of the all-natural recipes making the rounds for some of Goya’s most popular items: