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Sunday, February 02, 2014

"Just a Thought" Column continues in La Prensa SA, 2-2

Just a Thought: SA Hispanic Chamber turns 85
By Steve Walker

Over 1,700 businessmen, elected officials and invited guests celebrated the 85th birthday of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the J.W. Marriott Hotel Resort on US Hwy 281 last weekend.

Chartered as the Mexican Chamber of Commerce in 1929, it was organized by then Consul General of Mexico Don Enrique Santibanez who served as the first President of the organization.

Currently with about 35 Hispanic chambers of commerce in Texas and about 600 across the nation, the local chapter in the early days focused their emphasis on promoting trade, policy and cultural harmony. While the chamber’s leaders forged ahead to define modern Hispanic business, the social climate of the time posed many barriers.

History tells us that minorities faced discrimination in business, just as in employment, education, voting, infrastructure, access to capital and markets. These social issues highlighted the necessity for the chamber to go beyond the traditional scope for chambers of commerce and into one of dual social and business advocacy.

In 1987, the Mexican Chamber was renamed the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The new name reflected the increasing move to globalization emphasizing our relationship with all of Latin America and also the diversity of San Antonio Hispanic businesses.

With the name change, it set the stage for accomplishments for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. SAHCC played a central role in the promotion, negotiation, lobbying and passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. (NAFTA)

The Chamber maintained an active alliance with Mexico’s President Salinas de Gortari and Commerce Secretary Herminio Blanco to coordinate the treaty’s public education and promotion campaigns among Mexican-Americans in the United States.

The SA Hispanic Chamber’s participation in the passage of NAFTA was recognized as a critical component in negotiating the many compromises which made it possible. The Chamber’s involvement was also critical to its future success, again serving as the cultural and commercial connection through which many new trade deals would be realized.

During the 85th Gala celebration the incoming Board Chairwoman Patricia Pliego Stout announced that the Chamber is actively engaged in launching the idea to start the process of adding the name of former Mayor Henry Cisneros to the San Antonio International Airport. The announcement drew a loud applause.

Stout also mentioned plans to coordinate trade missions to Cuba and Spain as well as starting the process to obtain new offices for the chamber.

Keynote Speaker Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza also told the crowd she predicted that comprehensive immigration reform would be approved by Congress.

We wish a Happy 85th Birthday, to the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

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