Estamos Presente – Showing up for our Latino communities, every day
November 17, 2022
- By Sandy Rodriguez, Vice President of US Communications, McDonald’s USA
One of the wonderful things about an iconic Brand like McDonald’s are all the stories you hear about its special and powerful presence in the lives of our customers. I’m consistently humbled hearing people’s memories of how we’ve put a smile on their face because we’ve been a part of the everyday and special moments of their lives.
Having recently joined McDonald’s, I’ve come to see that it is more than just nuggets and fries (although, we’re proud of how delicious they are!) We strive to be present – a force of good and for good – in the communities we serve. And I know from experience as a first generation Mexican-American—as I recall days of my dad picking me up from school and taking me to eat there before he headed off to his second shift job—that McDonald’s embeds itself within the community in creative and valuable ways. I’ve appreciated learning of the intentional actions that have been taken over the years, from supporting local charities to spearheading initiatives for the Hispanic and Latino communities in music, education, and even sports – and its these past actions that make me proud to work for McDonald’s and hopeful that others will follow in our footsteps.
These actions date back to when our founder Ray Kroc was expanding McDonald’s footprint and searching for savvy business owners who were leaders in their communities. In one such community, he found that in Henry Giron Garcia, a Korean War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, who graduated from Hamburger University in 1971 and became the first Latino owner operator. Garcia went on to create the McDonald’s Hispanic Operators Association (MHOA) with nine other franchisees in 1977 – functioning as a direct link to our customers to serve the unique needs of the Latino community.
In that same spirit, I’m honored to share that McDonald’s will be a founding donor to the newly established Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino. This will be the first Smithsonian Museum dedicated to showcasing Latino history and culture in the U.S. It will allow visitors to learn about how diverse Latino communities have long advanced our country’s goals of democracy, freedom, and economic opportunity. Although the museum won’t be open for many years, you can experience its first physical presence now by visiting the incredible Molina Family Gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Our investment in the museum reinforces our longtime support of the community – not a one-off, moment in time effort, but rather building on our commitment to be that special and powerful presence that helps amplify the voice of our communities. In 1985, the MHOA in partnership with McDonald’s Corporation established the Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resource scholarship program (HACER), which has awarded more than $33 million in scholarships to more than 17,000 Hispanic students since its founding. HACER was established to help Latino high schoolers achieve their dreams of attending college and currently provides half a million dollars in scholarships as well as college-preparedness resources. And, recently in the city of Chicago, we’ve supported five organizations dedicated to Latino youth through our Chicago Community Impact Grants Program developed in partnership with the Chicago Community Trust, including ALMA Chicago, Association House, Instituto del Progreso Latino, La Casa Norte, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción.
McDonald’s launched two creative programs in the past several years that are focused on uplifting the voices and stories of Latinos: Spotlight Dorado, which helps advance the careers of aspiring Latino filmmakers, and Ritmo y Color McDonald’s a program that gives Latinos opportunities to feel represented through a series of inspiring art and music moments that celebrate their culture and stories of Latinidad. We're also proud to give long-standing support to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute who year after year foster future leaders in public policy and public service. But it's not just enough to show up for youth; we are proud to partner with UnidosUS who tirelessly advocates for the Latino community in civic spaces, and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility who works toward Latino representation in corporate leaderships and corporate boards.
It’s work like this, and by other advocates across the country, that will come to life in the Museum. Personally, after touring the Molina Family Gallery myself, I can’t wait to bring my family and friends. I’m filled with joy as generations to come will have the opportunity to see themselves not only in the galleries and exhibits of the Museum, but hopefully, every time they enter one of our restaurants.