“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder,” Goya CEO Robert Unanue said at a White House meeting.
Goya, which says it’s the nation’s largest Hispanic-owned food brand, is facing a backlash after its chief executive met with and heaped praise on President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday.
On Twitter, #BoycottGoya and #GoyaFoods were trending in the United States, and some Latinos were also using the hashtag #goyaway.
Trump reached out to Latino voters Thursday with a promised expansion of his “Hispanic Prosperity Initiative,” an effort said to include more taxpayer support for charter and private schools, and added tax benefits for “Opportunity Zone” development in urban neighborhoods.
School choice “is a great civil rights issue and may be the great one of our times,” the president said.
For the event, which included the signing of an executive order on the initiative, Trump hosted a group of Hispanic supporters — including politicians and business magnates — one day after he met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was facing a backlash of his own.
Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue attended the event and used the occasion to announce a donation of 1 million cans of chickpeas and 1 million pounds of other food to food banks.
“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder,” Unanue said at the White House.
The remark set off a wave of criticism of New Jersey-based Goya, founded in 1936 by European immigrants. Some called for consumers to consider other brands in the canned food aisle.
Goya Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
“Americans should think twice before buying their products,” former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro tweeted.
Many Latinos feel Trump has dehumanized and attacked south-of-the-border immigrants for political gain starting with the 2015 launch of his presidential campaign, when he suggested that Mexican newcomers were criminals and rapists.
“It’s shameful and appalling that the president of Goya Foods is praising the most anti-Latino president in the history of our country,” Latino Victory Fund CEO Nathalie Rayes said by email.
“President Trump has disrespected and attacked the Latino community since Day 1,” she said. “We call for a boycott of Goya Foods products and anyone who stands with Donald Trump and against our community.”
The president’s family separation policy at the border and his attempt to dismantle the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young immigrants who have been in the U.S. since they were children to stay, have not helped his popularity among Latinos.
Last year the Southern Poverty Law Center released a trove of emails from White House adviser Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration policy, who cited and promoted white nationalist ideologies.
Youth immigrant organization United We Dream said on Twitter that it supports boycotting Goya for normalizing relations with the White House.
“We don’t support companies who endorse and comply with a White Supremacist regime,” it said. “Under capitalism, know the power of the dollar in their eyes. We’re using it to make a statement.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., suggested working around Goya products when creating dishes with traditional Puerto Rican seasoning.
“Oh look, it’s the sound of me Googling ‘how to make your own Adobo,'” she said on Twitter before posting a friend’s from-scratch recipe.
The Twitter account for the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services Action Fund argued that Goya’s “canned black beans aren’t even that good. It seems their opinions and politics are worse.”
Southern California food writer Bill Esparza said on Twitter that he had made a quick “pantry check” to ensure that no Goya products were in his home. “All clear,” he said.