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Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Just a Thought" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 1-31

Just a Thought: SA Hispanic Chamber turns 87
By Steve Walker
Over 1,600 business men and women, elected officials and invited guests celebrated the 87th birthday gala of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on E. Market Street 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 over 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 87th Gala celebration the incoming Board Chairwoman for 2016 Rebecca Quintanilla Cedillo pointed out in her closing remarks that the Chamber was all about business. She noted that the Chamber was about starting new businesses, and growing commercial enterprise with new partnerships. She also pointed out that the chamber boasted over 1300 members that achieve success though the Chambers advocacy and business programs.

Board Chairwoman Cedillo was introduced by former HUD Secretary & San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros.

During the evening, the 2015 Embajadores of the Year were presented to Yvette Garcia, President. Robinson General Contractors, Inc. and Bradley Stroud, President & the CEO of Stroudlink LLC.

Garcia was touted for her motto, “Big enough to get the job one, small enough to care.” Stroud was recognized for his “linking businesses to solutions.”

We wish a Happy 87th 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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