Luis Fitch, immigrant artist and businessman, is co-founder of UNO Branding, the Minneapolis marketing agency with an office in Mexico City.
UNO is working on Mexico-based Manzanita, the apple-based soda that’s a rage in Mexico and starting to sweep the U.S. It’s owned by UNO client, PepsiCo. He also works for a Canadian company that owns an Irish beverage firm that’s expanding here and in Mexico.
“We are not a Mexican or Hispanic American agency we are a cross-cultural company,” Fitch said last week. “We navigate cultures. I dress like an American. Speak to you in English. Go home and speak to my son in English or Spanish.”
Fitch also has been one of the growing ranks of Americans over the last year uncomfortable with the political dialogue from Donald Trump and followers and what they see as a lack of insight on the relationship between Mexico and America and the collaborative work that needs to be done to increasingly benefit both countries. Fortunately, business is way ahead of Trump and the “America First” isolationists.
“We have more work than we can handle,” said Fitch, a Tijuana native. “Businesses … need help. Museums, companies, nonprofits all are trying to communicate to the growing Hispanic market …
“We have projects underway for the Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and others around the U.S. The curators started to notice last year visitors dressed in red hats and Trump shirts. Young kids, making negative comments. With this president, people don’t even feel safe in a museum. We are doing a branding campaign … education and support. A safe place to understand culture is through museums.”
Fitch, 51, who graduated from the Art Center College of Design at Pasadena, Calif., also is an exhibiting artist with other Minnesotans of Hispanic descent at an exhibit that is so appropriate for the times. The 15 artists, working in different media, explore the tumult, upset and emotions of millions of exiled around the globe in “Latino Art Migration” at the Concordia Gallery on the campus of Concordia University in St. Paul. The exhibit concludes Feb. 24.
“Migrants and immigrants endure incredible distress,” wrote William Franklin, the exhibit’s curator. ‘‘Sometimes sustainable, other times intolerable. These complex emotions make us who we are as travelers, exiles, dreamers, refugees. They haunt us regardless.”
I am descended of French, Sioux, Dutch and German. And a beneficiary of the love, toil and sacrifice of immigrant ancestors and their kids.
My dad was a day laborer and night watchman during the Great Depression, a 35-year Army sergeant and U.S. Immigration Service officer, a buddy to the Cuban brothers across the street who lost their dad at a young age. He married up to a college graduate just before he shipped out for WWII. She was a Red Cross volunteer and pacifist who lost her brother in that war.
My dad was open-minded, a reader of history who admired immigrants. Most arrive with little English and in tattered clothes. They often get bullied, whether Polish Jew, Italian Catholic, Norwegian, Mexican, Vietnamese or Hmong. America, every generation or so, also has provided amnesty and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are not criminals. They pay taxes, even before citizenship. Many start businesses. They focus their kids on education and a better life.
My dad would have been honored to meet Luis Fitch and welcome the other new immigrants who have helped revive our old neighborhood. They both understood that immigration is how America refreshes and strengthens her culture and economy.
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.