Hispanics are the dominant ethnic group from bleak Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America to the steamy jungles of Central America to the lush tropical islands of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, to the plains and mountains of Mexico, the American Southeast and West and the big northern cities of New York, Boston and Chicago.
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We come in all colors, white, brown and black, products of our wildly varying blend of Native Americans and immigrants from Europe and Africa.
We are united by the Spanish language, and something just as ubiquitous: beans.
But, before I get to beans, let’s talk bananas.
In 1939, my father, Cruz Rivera came to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico, literally on the banana boat, the once weekly United Fruit Company cargo ship, carrying the harvest of produce and a modest handful of humble immigrants from San Juan to New York.
He met my mom, Lily Friedman, a nice Jewish girl from Newark, New Jersey when they both worked at Child’s Cafeteria on 42nd Street and 6th Avenue, just five blocks from where decades later their sons Geraldo and Craig would work at Fox News.
Since our mom was a casual cook at best, (she used to burn the coffee), my dad was the family’s chef.
Exposed in New York to the vast panoply of Latinos from everywhere, he made a profound observation about beans. Central to Hispanic life, rice and beans appear on the menu in every Spanish household from Argentina to Albuquerque, Bolivia to the Bronx, but there are differences. Puerto Ricans prefer red pinto beans, Cubans the black bean, Mexicans, brown and often refried.
Mi papi used to say, “La unica diferencia entre nostros-los Hispanos-es el color de nuestros frijoles.” (The only difference between we Hispanics is the color of our beans).
Whatever their color, in the U.S. and the Caribbean, most often those beans come from Goya. Since 1936, the legendary company now worth hundreds of millions and based in New Jersey has dominated the Spanish food market.
It is the Kleenex of beans, honored at the White House in 2011 by President Barack Obama for its commitment to, and continued success in the Hispanic community.
Goya was back at the White House for this week’s roundtable with notable Hispanic business leaders gathered to support President Donald J. Trump’s Hispanic Prosperity Initiative to get us better engaged in improved educational and employment opportunities.
During the ceremony, Goya’s chief executive Robert Unanue stepped on the land mine of cruddy identity politics when he thanked President Trump for the initiative, graciously adding that the country was “blessed” to have him as president.
Unanue also pledged to donate a million cans of Goya’s delicious chickpeas to COVID-depleted food banks.
Ignoring his compassionate gesture, the woke brigade charged immediately.
How dare he be gracious to the reviled president? Led by hard-left Democrats Reps. Julian Castro and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calls for a national boycott of Goya exploded on Twitter.
“Oh look, it’s the sound of me ‘Googling’ how to make your own Adobo,” AOC tweeted.
Adobo is the principle marinade and seasoning for Spanish cooking and the Goya brand dominates the market.
Maybe due to his comfortable position atop the Hispanic culinary food chain and unlike most targets of digital rage, Goya’s Bob Unanue fired back Friday morning on “Fox & Friends," saying:
“It's suppression of speech…You're allowed to talk good about one president (Obama) but it’s not allowed with another? When I was called to be part of this Commission to aid in economic and education prosperity and you make a positive comment all of a sudden that’s not acceptable. So I’m not apologizing for saying it -- Especially if you are called by POTUS. What am I going to say, I'm busy? I didn’t say that to Obama and I wasn’t going to say that to Trump.”
My sense is that despite the temporary woke rage, rice and beans from Goya will continue to grace the tables of millions of hungry Latinos.