Hispanic Heritage: Remembering Jacobo Salazar “Jobo”

Jacobo Salazar taught his daughter and son-in-law the importance of always helping others

 

Jennifer, Jacobo, Fabiana, Francisco and Jose

Many people have helped me in my career. Each had an important role in shaping me. Some went out of their way to teach me. Others are people in the advertising business that I try to emulate. Through his determination and search for the American dream, it is my father-in-law, Jacobo Salazar, who inspired me to achieve my goals.

I met him for the first time when his daughter, Jennifer, whom I was dating, invited me over to the house to meet her parents. It was not an easy task to win them over for I was dating their only daughter; I thought that their faces would crack if they would force a smile. After several failed attempts I finally won them over. That was when I started hearing about Jacobo’s accomplishments. Over the years I watched him grow his business one step at a time.

 

 

 

Humble Beginnings

 

According to Jennifer, Jobo, as he later allowed me to call him, was born in a small town called Rincon in Puerto Rico, that is now known worldwide for surfing and is popular with mainstream America. Rincon, then known for growing sugar cane, was mostly agricultural in nature and was a village where everyone knew each other. Because he had to leave school to work the fields, he only had a third-grade education. He fell in love with Jennifer’s mother, Fabiana Ruiz. In order to marry her, he had to build a small house for them to live in. It had no electricity, running water nor floors—hence the expression “dirt poor.”

Jennifer and her two brothers, Jose Luis and Francisco, had to sleep in hammocks, an experience that to this day she has not forgotten from the humble beginning of her life. Jobo wanted more for his newly started family and when a recruiter offered him a job as a sharecropper in New Jersey, he decided to leave Puerto Rico not knowing the language or the culture. When he got to the U.S., he was allowed to leave the job earlier because he was the only one of all the men who knew how to cook so this way his fellow fieldworkers would have a hot meal.

He saved enough money to send for his family and move them to the Bronx in New York City. He took a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Manhattan and when the boss found out he could cook, he promoted Jobo to short order cook. He was not making enough to support his family in this new land so he worked a second job as a taxi driver. It was just recently when Jennifer told me that that he told her that on many nights he cried in the cab because he would take a fare to a location and didn’t know how to find his way back home.

At first the family wore used clothing and hand-me-down items provided by family and friends. When clothes were bought, they were usually one or two sizes bigger so they would last the whole year. This was also true of shoes. They had to wrap their feet in plastic bags to keep the slush of winter out of their boots.