Chef Eric Rivera grew up with a pantry full of Goya products. Adobo, beans, rice, tostones, sazón — you name it, his parents likely bought it. It was a way for the Riveras to stay connected with their Puerto Rican roots as they built their lives in Washington state, thousands of miles away from the island.
But today, Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned company in the United States, is facing intense backlash from Latinx consumers following comments from CEO Roberto Unanue. “We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder,” Unanue, a member of the second wealthiest Spanish American family in the United States, said at a White House event last week. The remarks came after announcing a donation through Trump’s new Hispanic Prosperity Initiative.
To Rivera and many Latinx people across the nation, who don’t support the president, the comments felt like a betrayal. They are now boycotting the brand, while conservatives have issued a counterprotest, encouraging Trump supporters to buy Goya products.
Rivera, who owns the Seattle-based restaurant Addo, has long been selling sazón and other dry goods through a pantry program. As consumers boycott Goya, he has offered his products as an alternative. Rivera talked to us about why he disapproves of Unanue’s comments, why Latinx people need more options in the market, and the secret to making his sazón.
GEN: First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your business?
Chef Eric Rivera: My parents are from Puerto Rico, and I was the first person in my family who was born stateside. For me, it’s been really hard to figure out how to get Puerto Rican cuisine going here in Seattle, because there’s not a big market. My entire professional life has been to basically find out how to cook everybody else’s food. Then, about three years ago, I started my own restaurant and business, Addo. I’m the only person in Seattle doing Puerto Rican food at all. I grew up on Goya—I think all of us did. It’s convenient. It’s something that’s there. It’s something we all depend…