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Hispanics Get Down To Business
By Barry Flynn | Sentinel Staff Writer
April 12, 2003
Antonio Garcia-Crews did 15 years of hard time in a Cuban prison after fighting on the wrong side of the Cuban revolution.
Or the way he sees it, win or lose, that was the right side of the revolution.
Now, he's an American lawyer who practices in Orlando. And he spent Friday with hundreds of other Hispanics doing that most American of things -- business.
Garcia had one of more than 200 booths at the 10th annual Hispanic Business Expo in the Orlando Expo Centre in downtown Orlando.
Garcia specializes in immigration law and, at the end of the first day of the expo, which continues today, he had talked to some foreign business people interested in the H-1 B visa that is issued especially for professionals.
The expo brought together a melange of businesses, professionals, banks and even a few governmental agencies hoping to meet potential clients, find new customers, get jobs, sell franchises, recruit new employees or just make some contacts that might someday prove useful.
Attendees could walk away with a grab bag of gifts, geegaws and gizmos handed out to capture their attention, snare a potential customer's business card or just make an impression.
Those included a CD-ROM with the entire BellSouth telephone directory, sample newspapers, key chains, paper cutters, even a glamour-shot photograph of a local TV anchorwoman -- personally autographed in Spanish or English.
It was a great day for Liza Ordoñez-Ruiz, a native of Puerto Rico. She was so busy promoting her Association of Hispanic-American Professional and Business Women that she missed the dress-for-success fashion show that unfolded right in front of her booth.
"I just got my bagel and my coffee at 3 o'clock, I was so busy," she said, delighted with the turnout.
The show was not limited to Hispanics.
Frank Alamia, for instance, a native of Brooklyn who owns Decorated Interiors, a furniture store in Apopka, was there with a big display. He doesn't speak Spanish but one of his employees does. And he judged it "a very good day."
Or take Chris Kilby of Altamonte Springs. She is equally monolingual, but she held down a booth for Pampered Chef, a multilevel marketing company that specializes in cooking tools such as clay bakeware. She was looking for Hispanics to join the company.
Jorge Arias, a native of Colombia, has done everything during his 22 years in the United States from wash dishes in a New York restaurant to buy and sell video games out West.
Two years ago, he sold his business out West and moved to Central Florida. On Friday, having a booth at the expo for his new business wasn't quite good enough.
While his partner manned the booth, Arias was out cruising the expo asking other business owners to sign up for his online Directoriolatinoamericano.com, a Latin American directory Web page.
For $70, customers can be listed on the directory and get a few other benefits as well, such as a free e-mail account.
By the end of the expo's first day, Arias had had a lot of interest from people, but just one sale -- or near sale.
"Well," he said with a knowing shrug, "I'm supposed to pick up a check tomorrow."