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Friday, May 28, 2004

Dos Mundos Bilingual Newspaper-Mexican Carves Path for Future Invasion

Dos Mundos Bilingual Newspaper

Hector Barreto: He was “just” an immigrant

By Carmen Cardinal


Like many newcomers to this country, Hector Barreto came to find a better way of life.

He always planned to return home to his beloved home town of Guadalajara, Mexico, someday, but for much of his life, he was as native to our community as anyone, etching his way through the land of milk and honey and pursuing the American dream.

Perhaps what separated him from other newcomers was the vision that he brought with him. He dared to dream.

He had a way of turning his dreams into realities. That’s what dreams are for. Like many other immigrants, his life started out hard, with a lot of backbreaking and thankless jobs. It was his dream to be his own boss. Eventually, he opened his own restaurant, which would inspire many other Mexicans like him to follow their dreams.

The Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce began in 1978, helping those budding entrepreneurs who needed a united voice. It was his voice that they first heard.

He dreamed of a nationwide Hispanic organization that would address the needs of the struggling Hispanic entrepreneurs, to break language barriers and give credibility to those valiant souls who dared to take their place in America’s business communities. He lived to see the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) grow and prosper and become a force to claim a place in Corporate America. He proudly bore the title of chairman emeritus for the USHCC.

He was an inspiration to anyone who met him, even to those who thought he was too ambitious for his own causes and those of other Latinos. He never seemed to stop and many did not understand his tireless drive.

After all, many thought, he was just an immigrant. Many immigrants to this country are content to eek out a living, staying one step ahead of the law and enjoying their time off after a hard day. They seek to evade society and not be part of it. At least, that’s what many expect from immigrants.

But not Hector Barreto.

Not only did he want to eek out his place in this great nation, he wanted to gouge out a slice of it for future generations to follow.

He was always working on a project. One would always start a greeting to him by asking, “What are you working on now, Hector.”

There would always be an answer.

What audacity would it take for a mere immigrant to help found the USHCC; and to dare to gain an audience with presidents of the United States and of Mexico on behalf of Hispanic entrepreneurs.

He dared to plan to unite entire hemispheres of the planet, forming alliances with all the countries of North, Central and South Americas. That’s what he was devoting his efforts towards during his end of days.

He had great plans for the Latino communities in Kansas City. He envisioned a corridor of Latino owned businesses, thriving and partnering with businesses in Latin America. With the great influx of Latinos to this area, it is finally happening.
Successful entrepreneurs in Kansas City, like Manny’s Restaurant owner, Manny Lopez, and Taqueria Mexico’s owner Ricardo Romo, all point to Hector and say “he was my mentor.”

He was a pioneer in Kansas City, plowing fertile soil for those who followed, along with Ana Riojas, Frank Perez, and other early leaders.

This immigrant would push on, eventually becoming an advisor to the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. He was able to communicate with Reagan on terms that, as a proud Irishman, Reagan could understand. It was the start of a friendship and a strategic partnership.

From Reagan, he went to advise George H.W. Bush. Bush appointed him to various task forces, councils and advisory boards, including his appointment as president of the National Economic Development Agency.

Barreto became a tireless advocate for closer commercial ties between the United States and Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

Hector Barreto has been honored in his lifetime by many civic and business organizations, including Dos Mundos as the recipient of the Allegria Award given to a community member who served others beyond the call of duty.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Most important, he was inducted into the hearts of the many Kansas Citians who met him and were inspired and mentored by him. Our community will be sadder for his loss. He will be greatly missed.

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