El Gran Combo Says It Didn’t Authorize Trump Campaign to Use Band’s Music in Goya Foods Boycott Debate

Jul 14, 2020
2:50 PM

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico (Official Publicity via The Roots Agency/CREDIT)

LOS ANGELES — President Donald Trump and his campaign have already been told by many bands and musicians from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom not to use their music in rallies, events, ads and digital posts.

The legendary salsa band El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico may soon be added to that list.

The social media accounts of the Latinos for Trump (@EquipoTrump on Twitter) group recently used at least two videos of very famous songs performed by El Gran Combo to attack Democrats and “white libs” who, according to the campaign, initiated a boycott against Goya Foods.

On July 11, the campaign first used a video of Mexican singer Paquita La del Barrio and one of her most famous songs, “Rata de dos patas,” to refer to Democrats who “cancel Goya.”

They also used “No hay cama pa’ tanta gente” by El Gran Combo to attack Democrats “who want to cancel Goya Foods.”

The next day, they posted another meme along with a video of the El Gran Combo song “La fiesta de Pilito.”

When contacted to ask whether or not the band knew the music was being used for a political campaign, Willie Sotelo, pianist and manager for El Gran Combo, responded via email with the following answer: “We have not authorized the use of that video. El Gran Combo never mixes politics and music, and we never have supported any party or candidate.”

In a follow-up email, Sotelo said that he was consulting with the band’s attorneys about the unauthorized use of the video and that he would “listen to their suggestions” about whether they will take any steps against the Trump campaign.

The social media accounts and the campaign of Latinos for Trump focused on the Goya Foods boycott issue after Goyaa CEO Robert Unanue visited the White House last week and had the highest praise for Trump.

“We are all truly blessed… to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder,” Unanue said on July 9. “That is what my grandfather did. He came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper.”

He also shared similar comments the same day before the Rose Garden appearance, according to a White House transcript:

“Mr. President, what can I tell you? I’m so blessed to be here in the most prosperous country in the world, the greatest country in the world,” Unanue said in the transcript. “And we’re so blessed to have you as our leader, as we continue to build this country and make it—continue to make it the most prosperous nation in the world.”

Goya Foods is a very recognizable brand of Latino-themed food, and Unanue’s comments struck a chord with many Latinos and others, who launched calls for a boycott of the brand using hashtags like #Goyaway and #BoycottGoya.

Since then, the Latino for Trump campaign and Trump himself praised Goya, a company with a very complicated relationship among Latinos. Unanue has also gone on Fox News to say that he won’t apologize for this campaign. A #BuyGoya campaign quickly emerged in conservative circles, with crowdsourcing pages claiming that thousands of dollars have been raised to buy Goya products for food banks. All these efforts seized on the issue to accuse Democrats of attacking the brand, turning it into a supposed attack against Hispanics.

Some in the Puerto Rican community did not like the idea of the Trump campaign using the most recognizable salsa band from the island to promote the 2020 campaign of President Trump, who has been blamed for a poor response after Hurricane María devastated the island in 2017.

¡Que no se metan con El Gran Combo, coño! (Don´t mess with El Gran Combo, no f-ing way!),” said Puerto Rican-born Antonio Mejías Rentas, journalist and former entertainment editor for La Opinión newspaper. “To use the music of El Gran Combo, which is so important for us, that has been with us in our best moments of celebration in our lives, is to put salt in our wounds. I am not surprised that they don’t want to be associated with any of that.”

Just a few days ago, former Department of Homeland Security acting secretary Elaine Duke said in a New York Times interview that Trump had expressed interest in selling the island after the hurricane.

“Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset,” Trump reportedly said, according to Duke, in the interview.


Pilar Marrero is a freelance Venezuelan-American journalist living in Los Angeles, California. She produces and co-hosts The Pundettes, a political podcast. She tweets from @PilarMarrero.