Roberte Clemente, Jr., the son of the great Puerto Rican baseball legend, specifically told Goya that the company logo appearing on the base of a new statue honoring his father should never be changed, according to a Latino Rebels interview with Rafael Toro, Goya’s director of public relations.
In the interview, Toro addressed the growing controversy surrounding the Clemente statue at Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx. The statue was unveiled the last week of June, and within days, social media reaction to a large Goya logo at the statue’s base was so strong that Goya had to issue a statement last week. Toro agreed to the interview to add more details about the company’s position.
Toro also emphasized the long relationship the Clemente family has had with Goya, including baseball clinics Clemente ran for the company and the winter league baseball team he managed. In addition, Toro pointed to the personal relationship Clemente had with Cristobal Colón, Goya’s first salesman and of one of the people to see Clemente the night of December 31, 1972, just minutes before Clemente’s plane headed to Nicaragua with relief items for earthquake victims crashed into the ocean.
“The Clemente family is very happy with how the statue turned out,” Toro said in the interview.
When asked about whether he thought the statue is being seen by many as an ad, Toro said, “It was never intended to be an ad. We aren’t tying it to a marketing or sales campaign. It is not tied to any of our products.”
Toro also acknowledged the community criticism and the factual error wrongly listing the day Clemente got his 3,000th career hit. He said that “everybody is entitled to their opinion,” but “the overwhelming response has been very positive, by the state, the park, and the community.” Toro did confirm that the factual error is currently being fixed.
“We wanted people to know that we did this, and that we were proud that we did it,” Toro said, echoing many of the sentiments expressed in last week’s Goya statement. “We did it with the best of intentions. Yes, we know that there is a logo and that the logo is prominent, and we’re proud of that.”
Meanwhile, Boricuas for a Positive Image (BPFI), the grassroots organization that spoke out against the Coors Light Puerto Rican flag beer can at the Puerto Rican Day Parade, wrote a letter dated July 8 to Goya president Robert Inanue. In the letter, BPFI called for the complete removal of the Goya logo, saying that “the placement of your company name smeared whatever goal you may have had.”
The letter later states:
…our position is that there is no MORAL JUSTIFICATION giving you the moral imperative to place a corporate ad on a work of art symbolic of a Puerto Rican and world-wide hero, no matter what relationship you’ve cultivated with Clemente and Latinos. The people of the Bronx are insulted by this logo placement, and no amount of corporate sponsored relationships with Latinos will justify its existence. The fact is, if Goya were truly interested in a harmonious relationship with Latinos, it would change the plaque and let its beauty speak for itself. Goya has made billions of dollars from Latinos in general and Puerto Ricans in particular, and still does to this day. It could erect a 20 foot solid gold statue for Clemente studded in diamonds and rubies and its cost would still be a drop of water compared to the vast oceans of money Goya has reaped off of Latinos, and yet Goya is miffed when we politely ask to remove its name from the base, as if we just asked them to remove their corporate left arm.
In a press statement, BFPI’s Lucky Rivera said, “If we do not hear from them soon, and I mean by Friday, July 12, we will start actions against Goya and step up our commitment to having the offensive ad removed.”
BFPI also announced a public forum for later in July to discuss the statue and its response to Goya.
Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, Forbes, and The New York Times.