Jaime Lucero: Mexican Entrepreneur and Visionary

Jaime Lucero, founder of Casa Puebla, is in charge of the Cinco de Mayo festival in Flushing Park in Queens. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

Jaime Lucero, founder of Casa Puebla (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

Jaime Lucero, from the municipality of Independencia in the Mexican state of Puebla, has maintained strong ties with his community since he came to New York in 1975. He is the owner of Gold & Silver, a New Jersey-based business that imports women’s clothing, and has been organizing the Cinco de Mayo festival since 2001. He founded Casa Puebla New York, and opened a branch of the same nonprofit in Mexico last year. QueensLatino interviewed him about his vision for the Big Apple’s Mexican community. Señor Lucero – his nickname – speaks slowly and smoothly, but is a deep thinker.

Twenty years ago, the Mexican community in New York wasn’t so big. Now it comprises more than 300,000 people. What are your thoughts on this increase?

The community grew because of the current circumstances in Mexico, where instability forces people to leave. The situation keeps getting worse and it doesn’t seem like it will become stable down the road, so Mexicans will keep coming to the U.S. There aren’t job opportunities in Mexico, and the streets aren’t safe there either.

What has been the community’s biggest contribution to New York City?

Businesses, without a doubt; [Mexicans contribute] to the economy in general. Just like other Latinos, Mexicans are involved in every line of work. Immigrants are the movers and shakers of the city’s economy, and Mexicans work in all areas.

Do Mexicans in New York face discrimination?

Of course, in many ways. There have been many cases [of discrimination], and they will continue to happen because of close-minded, intolerant people who reject others simply because they are different.

What are the major obstacles that prevent the Big Apple’s Mexican community from getting ahead?

The low level of education is critical. Most Mexicans come from rural areas without schools, and in the U.S. there is a lot of demand for jobs that require education. That’s why we’re helping children; we have to start with them. We have to motivate students starting in pre-K and continue [working with them] throughout high school so they don’t drop out, [but instead] end up going to college. The work that CUNY is doing with the Mexican community is vital for educational advancement.

How has Casa Puebla played a role in the progress of the Big Apple’s Mexican community?

Casa Puebla New York is an independent organization. We have our own funding so that no one can tell us what to do, when, and under what conditions. That’s how we deal with the issues that really affect our community. That’s how we’ve done it for 35 years, although at the beginning we had another name. Other non-Mexican immigrants have come to trust us and that makes us very proud.

How important is the Mexican Consulate in New York for the community’s growth?

Their consular services help us a lot and [it’s also important] because they represent the Mexican government. They have a lot of financial resources for the Mexican community, such as money to send people’s bodies home after they pass away.

How do you see the Big Apple’s Mexican community 20 years from now?

We are building solid foundations to make progress, and we have to organize ourselves to elect more politicians of Mexican ancestry, such as Congress members, assembly members, and – why not? – even a mayor.

Will Mexico make it to the second round in the World Cup in Brazil?

This is a difficult question [Lucero laughs]. Let’s hope our team scores decently in Brazil.

Will Mexico make it to the second round or not?

I think so.

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