The Chambers of Commerce and EXPONICA

The Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce is one of the oldest organizations formed by Nicaraguan immigrants in Miami. It was founded in 1986 with the aim of organizing Nicaraguan business owners and others interested in the entrepreneurial development of Nicaraguans.

The Nicaraguan Bankers Association (founded in 1983 and later transformed into the Nicaraguan American Association of Bankers and Business Owners) was the earliest antecedent of the organizations focused on creating an enabling environment for enterprises and transnational entrepreneurship in Miami.

As the transnational links with Nicaragua were unleashed following the change of regime in 1990, the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce became the main organization, among immigrant organizations, with a direct impact on commercial activities.

It has developed relationships with the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Industry in Nicaragua, among other organizations. These links have fluctuated over the years and to a great extent, they have depended on personal connections by the leaders of the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, the organization is led by Mario Sacasa, a well known Nicaraguan businessman with extensive links to Miami’s business establishment. Mr. Sacasa explains that some efforts are being developed to articulate the organization with the DR-CAFTA (Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement) trade design, which has a powerful arm in the chambers of commerce, including bilateral ones that operate from Downtown Miami.

The American Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce

Recently, former members of the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce, led by engineer Rodrigo Huete, have formed The American Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce. The main goals of this organization include making the organization more inclusive of other entrepreneurs in addition to Nicaraguans and to further expand transnational links with other Latin American countries.

The split of organizations based on the unfolding of different goals and understandings concerning the path that a given immigrant organization should follow is not unique to the Nicaraguan case nor is it the first time it happens within this case. For example, two medical organizations coexisted at some point based on similar rationales.

EXPONICA

Exponica started as an idea of the founder and current president, Eduardo Arroyo, and his brother. The concept was simple: to promote Nicaraguan culture in Miami while opening a market to Nicaraguan craftmakers and small industrialists to come and sell their products once a year in a Fair called EXPONICA. The Fair was meant to facilitate the links between producers and exporters in Nicaragua and consumers and importers in Miami.

Thus, in 1990 EXPONICA, which stands for Exposición Nicaragüense, started functioning in Miami-Dade County as a nonprofit organization run by Nicaraguan immigrants to promote Nicaraguan culture through a yearly exhibition of Nicaraguan crafts, food and typical clothing in a County-wide Fair.

By the early 1990s, Nicaraguans had already established ethnic food restaurants and cafeterias and corner stores throughout several areas of Miami, mainly but not exclusively in Sweetwater, an area of the city with a high concentration of Nicaraguans.

This trend benefited from the normalization of relationships with the United States in 1990 and new patterns of interaction of Nicaraguans in South Florida with their relatives and business associates in their homeland. Such interaction frequently involved small commercial activities which supported the flow of “ethnic products:” from Nicaraguan crafts to all sorts of foods.

Although at the origins of EXPONICA, the participants tended to be low-income merchants and industrialists from Nicaragua, those coming to the Fair in actuality were better off when they had an economic base that allowed them to pay for the trip to the exposition and related expenses without having to request loans. Those who were able to bring their products received first-had information experience on issues pertaining to quality standards, how the markets for their products work in South Florida and related issues.

EXPONICA eventually became a city tradition and it expanded to other Central American groups still under the leadership of Mr. Arroyo who eventually expanded it to encompass other Central American merchants and producers and now it encompasses exhibitors from other areas of Latin America and the name of the organization has changed to EXPONICA: La Feria de las Americas.

About Margarita

Blog on Nicaraguan immigrant organizations based on fieldwork conducted in South Florida and Nicaragua. For more information contact the author at: proyectosvarios2020@hotmail.com
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