This Voices in Food story, as told to Stephanie Gravalese, is from chef/owner Eric Rivera of Addo in Seattle, Washington. Rivera, who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Washington state, closed his restaurant in March and has kept the business going by creating interactive in-home experiences and selling pantry products. After Goya’s CEO, Robert Unanue, appeared at the White House Rose Garden in July to express praise for President Donald Trump, shoppers boycotted Goya and Rivera’s social media started “blowing up,” creating a flood of orders for his sazon and other Puerto Rican pantry items as customers demanded an alternative to Goya. Growing up with Goya products, Rivera was just as angry and heartbroken as other consumers who were lifelong consumers of the largest Hispanic-owned brand in the U.S.
In response to Unanue’s commentary, Rivera ramped up his Puerto Rican pantry line; the first thing he did was offer a discount in solidarity and resistance to Unanue’s words, and he began shipping his pantry products around the U.S. Below, Rivera shares his strong opinions on recent matters.
On The Goya CEO’s Support Of Trump
It felt like a really bad sketch on “Saturday Night Live” or a bad Onion article. It was crazy because in the middle of my day I was getting all these tweets and people who want to buy stuff from me, and once I saw what was happening, I thought, “Oh, no, no, no, this has happened.” So I flipped [my business plan]. I flipped everything. And I put out an ad [for our pantry products] saying, “Here’s what we do,” and people just started buying like crazy. It’s insane to me, because I’ve grown up around Goya my entire life. It’s like any other brand that people had gotten used to over a lifetime. All of a sudden they’re just being shitheads for no reason.
“We have people locked in cages. You constantly say that immigrants are rapists and drug dealers and everything else under the book, but now you like our canned food? Get out of here. That’s crazy.”
There’s no reason for Unanue to align himself with Trump. There’s no reason for Goya doing shit like this. I don’t understand what the deal is. Maybe it was him trying to get Latino voters to be cool with him, but that’s not how it works. That shows they’re out of touch ― the CEO of Goya, or maybe even the whole company is. Who knows?
People in the White House are putting up photos of cans of Goya and acting we give a shit about us. You can’t say that you gave a shit about that culture or the cuisine. We have people locked in cages. You constantly say that immigrants are rapists and drug dealers and everything else under the book, but now you like our canned food? Get out of here. That’s crazy.
On His Line Of Puerto Rican Pantry Staples
I’ve been doing it for years and this is something I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a long time. I’m just in a really small market, probably the smallest market for Puerto Rican food. Before now, we would sell three to four of those tins every couple of months ― there’s been almost ten times where I’ve said that I’m done doing Puerto Rican food in the city.
So [since the Goya news] in one day, we go from selling one flavor of sazon to three flavors to adding adobo, adding all these dry beans, and now there are almost 20 products all within a week ― a dry good pantry that has all the flavors.
On How Food Choices Can Be Political
These people in White House are exercising their right to say shit. I’m exercising my right to say shit. But then people turn around and ask me, “Why would you not stand with Goya? They’ve done charitable stuff forever, and there are 5,000 people who work for them. Do you want them to lose their jobs?” And that’s not my point. My point is, my spices aren’t hurting anyone ― I’m not going around to a protest with 20 guns in my pocket, I’m over here just saying, “Don’t fucking buy from those people. They’re full of shit. Buy from me, I make this stuff, and I’m not a piece of shit.”
I’m not a Trump supporter, and I’m not a fucking Goya supporter, not anymore. It’s just as simple as that.