Kansas City businessman and international Hispanic leader Hector Barreto Sr., 68, died Friday (May 14) in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, after a long illness.
Barreto was a founder and president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which was based in Kansas City before moving to Washington, D.C. He also was the father of Small Business Administration administrator Hector Barreto Jr.
“One thing I’ve realized over the last couple of days is how many people my father touched, not only in this country and in Mexico, but in other countries as well,” said Hector Barreto Jr. “One thing people will tell you over and over again is that my father was a passionate, visionary leader who believed in people and that’s why he dedicated himself to all of the causes that he had small business, the Hispanic community, the relationship between the United States and Mexico.
CiCi Rojas, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, agreed, saying Barreto’s death was a sad loss for the community. “The legacy that he leaves behind is one that I’m sure we’ll live by for a long time,” she said.
At 16 years old, Barreto was making a good living working with his father as a livestock dealer in Guadalajara. But he went bust after going out on his own a year later. In 1958, he immigrated to the United States to try to recoup his fortunes.
His first job was digging potatoes on a farm near Corning, MO, for 80 cents an hour, but by 1981 he owned several Kansas City area restaurants, a million-dollar tile distributing company, and was president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
He was later named chairman emeritus of the organization, as well as a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ (LULAC) Hall of Fame. The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has established a scholarship fund in his honor.
“He basically came to the United States with nothing, and just his hard work and his commitment was all he had to build his life,” said Hector Barreto Jr.