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Lessons learned from the boycott of Goya Foods

Political empathy

How the boycott of Goya Foods taught me a lesson in cross-cultural communication

In early July, the White House hosted a round table for prominent Hispanic business leaders. In attendance was Bob Unanue, leader of Goya Foods. The leaders met a few weeks after the response to the worldwide pandemic, and Bob Unanue described the spirit at the White House as one of economic prosperity and industrial achievements.

Unanue is later criticized by some outlets for introducing President Trump with “[we are] truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder.” Many, including myself, saw these comments as too polarizing, too political, for a company such as Goya which serves such a diverse population. Much debate ensued as calls were made to boycott Goya Foods. In a later segment on the Fox and Friends television program, Unanue described the criticism of his words as a ‘suppression of speech.’ 

goya foods givving food - Lessons learned from the boycott of Goya Foods

This is where an important point of discussion opens for the Latino community. When a member of the Latino community claims an issue of ‘suppression of speech,’ I have learned there is an added undertone to this claim. A 2011 piece in the Harvard Review Journal of Latin America, cataloged the many ways Latin Americans continue to face persecution if they express dissent from their current leaders. Unanue was appealing to freedom of speech perhaps within a community in which many are born without the right to express their own views. This is an important thing to consider in light of the diverse population of Miami. In this case, Unanue feels that he should be protected to say as he pleases in a country that grants the ability to do so. 

Unanue, however, describes Goya customers as part of a large familia. Similar to family dynamics, sometimes we need to avoid politics when at the dinner table, and many wanted Unanue to take the apolitical approach. Is it a requirement to praise a political leader because he invites you, or was Unanue showing his support of the POTUS. 

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