The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation held a round-table discussion with Latino business students that focused on embracing their heritage in the business world.
The Wednesday afternoon discussion was an opportunity for a handful of students to speak with the President and CEO of USHCC, Javier Palomarez. It was held in McCord Hall on the Tempe campus.
In his opening remarks, Palomarez talked briefly about the USHCC and the realities of being a Latino entrepreneur in America. Palomarez said he thinks that when people hear about the USHCC, they focus too much on the “Hispanic.”
“We’re job makers, not job takers,” Palomarez said. “We never forget that first and foremost, we are American businesses … we’re Americans first, but proudly Latino.”
Dina De Leon, the president of the Hispanic Business Student Association at the University, said Palomarez's words resonated with her.
She said she agreed with Palomarez's assertion that Latino entrepreneurs and business students should be proud of their cultural heritage and also proud of being American.
“It was interesting to hear his background as well,” De Leon said. “He’s the youngest of 10, and those are where his core values and beliefs stem from. I’m the fifth out of six kids, so it’s good to hear a similar story from somebody else.”
Oscar Cordova, a business sustainability junior who attended the event, said he also felt a connection to Palomarez’s backstory.
Cordova said his father did not get past a sixth-grade education, however, he still took over his father’s family butcher shop in Mexico at a young age.
“Basically, he had his own butcher shop at the age of 13,” Cordova said. “(He) and two younger brothers would tie up the animals, and I guess chop them up and get them ready for sale.”
Cordova said his father crossed the border illegally and moved to Los Angeles when he was around 18 or 19. However, when Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Control and Reform Act in 1986, the door opened for millions of undocumented citizens to apply for citizenship.
Cordova’s father was one of those individuals granted citizenship. He said he comes from a family that knows business, and hopes to start his own after graduation.
That entrepreneurial spirit is something that Palomarez believes is driving the growth of Latino-owned small businesses in the country.
“The very lifeblood of the American economy are American small businesses, we create over two-thirds of the jobs in this country,” Palomarez said. “I would tell you that American small business owners are the heroes of this economy, the heroes of this country.”
Palomarez also answered questions about how Latino entrepreneurs can look past the divisive 2016 presidential election and keep moving forward.
He also said that while he opposed President Donald Trump “vocally” when he was a candidate during the election, he still has to work with him now that he’s in the Oval Office.
“Like it or not, agree with it or not, the fact of the matter is this man is the 45th President of the United Sates of America, and that by itself deserves respect,” Palomarez said. “Do I respect him personally? Do I like him personally? No.”
Palomarez said that a lot of the things Trump says he may disagree with forcefully, but he still has to go to the negotiating table for his cause.
“My job is to put the emotion aside and look at those areas where I can collaborate and I can help,” Palomarez said. “If I get emotional about it, if I get pissed off about it can go sulk in the corner, then I haven’t solved anything. And I certainly haven’t helped you and I haven’t helped me.”
Palomarez said that if Latino entrepreneurs have work ethic and loyalty, then they will make it far both in business and in the country.
“Remember who you are, remember how you were raised, remember what you’re worth — and that’s going to get you where you need to go,” Palomarez said.
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