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HavanaJournal.com: Cuban Americans

Arturo Torres - A Cuban American success story

Posted January 20, 2007 by publisher in Cuban Americans.
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Andrea Torres | Miami Herald

Arturo G. Torres, a Cuban-born entrepreneur who went from washing dishes in Miami Beach to becoming one of the wealthiest Hispanics in the United States, died Saturday of complications from diabetes and cancer. He was 70.

Torres, who lived on Fisher Island, made his fortune by owning Pizza Hut and Taco Bell fast-food franchises around the United States, the Caribbean and Europe.

“One of his missions was to inspire Hispanics in the U.S. to become business owners,” said his daughter Vivian Torres. “He believed in the American dream and was convinced success could happen if you were ambitious and motivated enough.”

Torres was born Nov. 17, 1936, in Matanzas. He left high school to help with his family’s supermarket chain and real estate holdings. At 18, Torres opened his first supermarket in Agramonte, Cuba.

“It was a success. Everything he touched turned into gold,” said his cousin Manuel Sanchez. “He was a marketing genius.”

After Fidel Castro began to seize his holdings, Torres began to plot against him in Agramonte and Varadero. Fearing arrest, Torres and his family went into hiding at a friend’s home in Havana after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

With the help of friends, he got an exit visa and fled to Miami disguised as a Catholic priest.

“He left Cuba without a penny,” Sanchez said.

A few months later, Torres’ family joined him. They moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach, where he worked at a hotel for about a year until a Presbyterian church helped him and other Cuban refugees to relocate to Amarillo, Texas.

Torres held three jobs: During the day, he worked at a printing shop; at night, he washed dishes at a Pizza Hut restaurant; and on weekends, he worked at a drive-in theater.

Although he had to learn a new language, that was not a limitation for Torres, who quickly developed a reputation for his confident handshakes and warm hospitality.

After taking the initiative to learn the ins and outs of the pizza restaurant, he was promoted to manager of the eatery and later to regional manager for Pizza Hut.

Torres withdrew his savings and acquired a loan to open his first Pizza Hut franchise in Del Rio, Texas.

“No one thought a Pizza Hut in the border could work, but he was a visionary,” said Heriberto Guerro Jr., a former business associate. “To have business coming in from Mexico, he distributed coupons that covered the bridge fee . . . Business was booming.”

In 1972, Torres founded and ran Pizza Management Inc., which owned nearly 240 Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchises.

“He gave opportunities to a lot of us,” Guerro said. “It was an incredible operation: 53,000 Hispanic officers, district managers . . . We proved that Hispanics were capable to be on the boards of companies and be officers and direct reports.”

Torres appeared several times on Hispanic Business Magazine’s list of the 75 wealthiest Hispanics in America.

Torres and Pizza Hut’s parent company, PepsiCo, had a falling out in 1986, when PepsiCo prevented him from selling his stock.

“He figured we can go out and raise public dollars and provide more opportunities for Latinos,” Guerro said.

Torres sued PepsiCo for breach of contract.

“We were losing in the courtroom, but took our battle to the streets,” Guerro said. “Hispanic businesses around the country showed solidarity by choosing Coke instead of Pepsi.”

In 1992, Torres agreed to sell his empire to PepsiCo for about $130 million. As part of the deal, PepsiCo agreed to create a $5 million fund to help Hispanics open their own franchises.

“The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group, got involved in the negotiations,” said Sanchez, Torres’ cousin.

Torres later invested in Play-By-Play Toys & Novelties, a successful toy company with clients such as Walt Disney.

He was involved in numerous organizations, including serving as director of the National Conference of La Raza, and the Cuban American Freedom Foundation, and he was a supporter of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

“He was a natural leader and a selfless mentor who empowered people,” said Guerro, now CEO of Avanzar Interior Technologies. “He is an inspiration.”

In addition to his daughter Vivian, Torres is survived by his wife of 28 years, Laura Elena Gonzalez; his mother, Valentina; daughters Miriam Beatriz Forbord and Rebecca, Elizabeth, Christina, Laura, Diane and Veronica Torres; and seven grandchildren.

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Member Comments

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On January 30, 2007, Zhang Zhu wrote:

As one of his best friends in China, I am very sorry to learn that Mr. Torres passed away. On behalf of all his friends in China, I would like to express our condolences. Mr.Torres is such a great man that I have met in my life and he will always live in our hearts.  I can still recall the days when I first met with him at Javis Convention Center in New York in 1987, when we worked late at night till 4 o’clock in the morning at his office in San Antonio,when we negociated business for five days in a row at Hilton in Shanghai, when I enjoyed with him on Fisher Island in 1994 and when I talked with him over the phone in 2006 while traveling in the US.

Mr. Torres is immortal and we will always remember him.

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On March 15, 2007, fernando wrote:

I would like to bring my condolences to arturos family.I met most of arturos family,
I met arturo,his wife laura and his mom valentina at my cusins house.While I was in my cusins house arturo arrived with his wife and dog jimena.That day me and my cusins ate with arturo,I remebered he liked adding (picante) to his food.I give the condoleneces to his family for the death of a great hispanic men who would be always with us.

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On April 12, 2007, christina torres wrote:

My father,  Arturo Torres….the most charisma, the most love displayed. I miss him….I just miss him so much.

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On May 29, 2007, Arturo I. Yanez Torres wrote:

i miss you grandpa and i will always miss you so much

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On May 29, 2007, Francesca E Yanez Torres wrote:

I miss you and I will always love you up there… I wish you could come back down here.

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On May 29, 2007, Elizabeth Torres wrote:

If I could have five more minutes with my Father…. I would thank him for being my daddy and for making me the person that I am today. My children and I miss so much just hanging out with him in my house… Nothing else really mattered when he was around.

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On May 29, 2007, publisher wrote:

Thanks for posting. If you would like to post a picture, feel free to attach it to an email from the link in the footer and I will add it to this page.

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On August 14, 2007, Bill wrote:

Art Torres was a great man. Everything he did he did it his way & with a passion not found within 99% of most people.

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On August 15, 2007, Ramon wrote:

Of Art’s many girls, only Christina and Elizabeth took the time to write a little something about him here…........The two with the least to gain, loved him the most. I know your Father is so proud of the both of you right now for stating your thoughts about him here.

Please share any other memories the two of you may have about Art, your Father. He so greatly touched many of us who have Cuban roots.

Although Art had his faults, he was/is still a person to look up to.

My prayers and well wishes go out to Elizabeth and Christina Torres…........I WILL NEVER FORGET YOUR FATHER OR EITHER OF YOU!!!

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On August 22, 2007, Zhang Zhu wrote:

Last few days, some of my friends, who know Mr.Torres, had a get-together in Shanghai to mourn over Mr.Art. All of them present have known Mr.Art for years
and built up good personal relations with him. By recalling of the days when they worked and enjoyed with him in the states and China, they all believe that Mr.Art is still alive as some of them have still kept his e-mail address in the hope of getting humour stories from his mails. We will never forget Mr.Art and he will live in our hearts.

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On December 18, 2007, Steven Aguirre wrote:

My heart and condolences go out to all of the Torres family and his peers.  As a child I remember my biological father as “the denstist”.  You see, when I was a young boy losing his baby teeth and during one of his visits to Calexico, he yanked out a tooth that was dangling, holding on to dear life.  Though circumstances did not allow Arturo and I to see much more of each other, I did get to see him one last time.  That was 11 years ago when I turned 18, I visited him at the “Play by Play Toys” headquarters on Tejasco Rd. and enjoyed a couple of hours of converstation.  From then on, I would only know as much as google would tell me about him; for my pride kept us from keeping in touch.  It had been quite a while since I had looked him up, but on January 21st, I ran into an article that celebrated his life- his obituary.  The news of his death made me feel a strong sense of loss, forgivness and regret.  I hope his legacy and memories will be carried on by those who knew and loved him most.

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On December 30, 2007, Valentina Torres wrote:

Mi querido hijo Arturo, cuanto te extrano, ha pasado un ano que cerre con mis manos en tu lecho de muerte tus ojos para siempre, cuanto te necesito, no sabes que falta me haces, quiero que lleguen a ti todas las rosas que mes tras mes deposito en tu tumba, estas constantemente en mis oraciones y plegarias, pronto me reunire contigo. El dia mas feliz de mi vida fue aquel 17 de Noviembre del 1936 en que naciste, tu padre y yo te amamos con toda nuestra vida, vivimos tu impetuo de juventud, tu generosidad, tus primeros pasos, tu matrimonio con Miriam Cernadas y el nacimiento de aquellas dos ninas en Cuba, Beatriz y Vivian que iluminaron de alegria nuestro hogar, despues nacio Rebecca en Estados Unidos la cual lleno dicha nuestros corazones y tu padre que aun vivia ansiaba conocer, murio con el recuerdo de Miriam, Beatriz y Vivian y anorando conocer a Rebecca, como te quisieron estas hijas, como sufrieron ellas al ser arrancadas de su tierra natal Cuba abriendose paso en un pais extrano y tu comenzando a trabajar fuertemente para la mantenencion de tu hogar y sin tener dinero en aquellos tiempos, epoca muy dificil para ti y para tu familia, cuanto lloraba yo, cuanto sufrio tu padre por saber que aunque en el mejor pais del mundo nuestras primeras nietas junto a ti y Miriam estaban pasando trabajo como pasa todo inmigrante al llegar a tierras desconocidas, tus tres primeras hijas te adoraron inmensamente y sufren por ti dia a dia, los objetos que tienen de ti aunque sin valor son para ellas un santuario. Como luchaste hijo, como trabajaste, pusiste el nombre de nuestra patria en alto, fuiste el benefactor de Del Rio, alli ayudaste a mucha gente, despues vinieron tiempos mejores y con esos tiempos el nacimiento de tus demas hijas, Elizabeth, Cristina, Laurita, Dianne y Veronica, las cuales te adoraron y te adoran tambien,  todas estaban en tu corazon reuniendo a las 8 ano tras ano y a mi para disfrutar de un tiempo juntos, tus nietos, tus demas familiares, tus amigos, tus primos mas queridos, el pueblo de Agramonte y todos cuanto te conocieron te recuerdan dia a dia, que pena que hasta ayer no supe que existia esta posibilidad para escribir, me entere por Betty tu hija mayor las cuales se acababan de enterar, en todas las etapas de tu vida ayudaste a toda tu familia, siempre quisiste que todos permanecieramos unidos, que todos fueramos uno, ilumina con tu luz hijo la senda de tus seres queridos.  La vida de tus padres comenzo de una manera muy humilde, pero nuestro senor Jesucristo nos ayudo al igual que a ti para tener una vida confortable y poder ayudar a todos en la familia de manera igual, asi fuimos nosotros y asi eras tu, Arturito he tenido que hacer un esfuerzo muy grande para poder dictar esta carta, a Dios le agradezco y a Nuestro Senor Jesuscristo y al Espiritu Santo que me dio fuerzas para hacerlo, cuando nos reunamos hablare contigo. hasta pronto hijo. Tu Valenta

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On January 13, 2008, Liza riddle wrote:

I have known Elizabeth and her family for over 15 years.  Through the years I have had the privilege of meeting all of her sisters and can see a little piece of Arturo grafted in each and every one of their souls.
Each one proving their likeness to him through their successes and their strengths. 

I believe the Lord took Arturo to places he dreamed of throughout his life, yet the most important thing to him was his family.  He dreamed of having them all together, united as one.

These girls will come together and prove their TRUE strength,
that even in his absence they will continue to work hard to keep him alive in their hearts by honoring and fulfilling this final dream.

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On November 17, 2008, Steven wrote:

Happy Birthday Mr. Arturo Torres, you remain in the minds and hearts of many. 
I pray that you are in a better place, looking down at your family with a strong sense of pride and happiness.  Un abrazo para mi padre…

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On November 18, 2008, Zhang Zhu wrote:

Mr. Torres, people will never forget you and will always think of you. You will live in the hearts of all the people,who worked with you or for you.

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On January 07, 2009, Christina Torres wrote:

Daddy…it was two years ago yesterday that we lost you. I miss you in a way words can not explain. But I thank you for your guidance and love today, and for showing me that some things in life are infallible. You left us all with a great sense of pride and a huge capacity to love….that is all Torres. With great depth Papi, I love you…. Chrissy

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On January 28, 2009, Daniel M. Parkman, Sr. wrote:

I just read of Arturo Torres passing after I returned from the Hamptons. Our staff had auctioned his Veladi Ranch south of San Antonio, TX. He was a gentleman and entertaining with a quick sense of humor. Daniel M. Parkman, Sr. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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On May 27, 2009, Carlos wrote:

I pray that Christina and Elizabeth’s pain and suffering will get better over time. As another person has said, they are the only two daughters who have written about their wonderful father here. All of the other girls have written NOTHING….......My prayers are with you both. 


Carlos

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On May 27, 2009, Zhang Zhu wrote:

Carlos, I am sure that all the other girls also love their father, though they have had different experience over the years.  If they know this channel, they would surely write something about their great father.

Zhang Zhu

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On May 28, 2009, Chrissy and Elizabeth Torres wrote:

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers….Daddy was a fine man, loved by many. I know I can speak for all eight of us that he is missed terribly and I believe we all keep him alive in our hearts, thoughts and prayers.
All of you that continue to write on this page pay tribute to our father and give us a great sense of pride. His legacy lives on through all of us. Please continue with your memories and thoughts, they are priceless. Thank you and God bless.

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On May 28, 2009, Chrissy Torres wrote:

....it doesn’t seem to get better…your absence is as large as your character was. I miss you Daddy. Always and forever.

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On June 15, 2009, Raul Lopez wrote:

I know how tough this has been on you Chrissy. Hang in there as best you can….........I’m not going thru the best stages of my life right now either. Sometimes when you think you can’t sink any lower, you freefall another 500 feet. Believe me, I know….........Life really does suck at times & lately it seems it’s most of the time for me. I 100% honestly hope things get better for you someday & I really mean that with all my heart. Like you, I keep on telling myself (fooling myself?) someday all will be OK again. But as day by day, week by week & month by month go by, blackness closes in more & more…...........I hope this post does not come across as too “corney” sounding. Just like you, all I ever wanted to be was truly happy in life. Somewhere along the way things just seemed to go off the tracks…........I know it’s REALLY tough, I really, really do.

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On August 04, 2009, Bruce Robertson, Jr. wrote:

Zhang Zhu:  Would you, please, contact me concerning Arturo Torres?  My email address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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On September 23, 2009, Manny wrote:

Arturo G. Torres’ story is a classic example of the American dream.  Going from dishwasher to business owner; being referred by some people as among the richest Hispanics in the U.S.

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On September 23, 2009, Manny wrote:

He led an incredible life.  He deserves an article at http://www.americantriumphjournal.com

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On September 23, 2009, Zhang Zhu wrote:

Hi Manny, would you please relay the article about Arturo Torres to me as I could hardly reach it.  Thank you.  Regards, Zhang Zhu

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On November 17, 2009, Elizabeth Torres wrote:

I was talking with my daughter Francesca yesterday about it being her Grandpa’s birthday today… She said she wanted to wanted to write something to him. You are the best Grandpa in the world! Daddy, Happy birthday…. love and miss you so much! Elizabeth, Arturo & Francesca

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On November 21, 2009, Tony wrote:

I just wanted to let everyone know that Arturo has been an inspiration to me and countless people who strive to better themselves.  I came across his amazing story on the internet one day and I was overcome with pride and joy.  As a Latino it shows me that maybe, I too came achieve success.  I can see that he is loved and missed by so many people.  Saludos a Valentina!  Que Dios la bendiga.

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On January 22, 2010, JAVIER ZAPATA wrote:

Hola Arturo, allí donde estes, seguro que seguirás siendo el número uno. Agradecerte es poco lo que has hecho por mi, y así pensará muchísima gente.
M.Carmen y yo nos acordamos de ti y tu familia todos los días, la verdad que sólo con oir tu voz sentía y siento, una enorme paz, seguridad, confianza y unas ganas locas por disfrutar de la vida, cosa que nos has enseñado con todo tu corazón. Este pasado Diciembre recibí mis primeros contenedores de peluches, te he hecho caso y decidí continuar con lo que me enseñaste, gracias por la fuerza que me das para luchar y conseguir todo aquello que me mostraste. Te quiero y no dejo de pensar en ti, dos besos como los últimos de aquel Septiembre que nos despedimos por última vez. JAVI

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On January 24, 2010, kinggging wrote:

Raul Lopez, Do you live in Miami, Florida right now? I feel your pain..let’s talk. 305-244-6947c

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On March 02, 2010, cristal alanis wrote:

uncle arturo…
i will never forget all the things i lived on ur house
it was the most special days to me
i felt like a princess everytime i was there
and a few years later… i understood…. all u need is love and happiness in this life…so u can always feel like a princess everyday of ur life
u were so special and u always had so much love to share to everyone
so much happiness and joy
thanks a lot for everything u did for my family
and for me
thanks for showed me that in this life what it really matters is love and the family
its not about the money that u can have
its about the family and love u can have with u forever by ur side
thanks smile un angel nos observa y cuida…ese

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On December 05, 2010, Zhang Zhu wrote:

Mr.Torres, you have left us for more than three years,however you still lives in our hearts. All the friends knowing you at home and abroad would never forget your lovely voice and happy countenance. We think about you and talk about your legacy while having a get-together.
Sincerely hope that all the members of your family are happy.

Zhang Zhu

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On March 09, 2011, Hal Stanford wrote:

Iwas honored to have worked with and for Mr. Torres, when he opened the Valadi Ranch Steak Houses I was commissioned to do several murals
commemerating the “Stars over San Antonio” and then years lster I encountered him again at the Warm Springs Rehab Hospital as we were both rehabing knee injuries!
He was a very polite and nice man to know and I’m so sorry to hear of his passing!
  Sincerely, Hal S.

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On August 31, 2011, Lupita Horn wrote:

Mi querida Laurita (Mrs. Arturo Torres)
Por medio del Internet he encontrado esta pagina. Me he enterado con tristeza de su querido esposo Arturo y de corazon le envio mis condolencias.Su esposo fue un hombre muy querido y respetado por muchos, sinceramente siento mucho lo ocurrido. Han pasado muchos anos desde que nos conocimos en Del Rio, Tex. siempre le guarde a usted y le sigo guardando sincero carino. Mi queridisimo esposo Don murio en Julio 24 del ano 2000. Dios Nuestro Padre Celestial sabe sus designios y aunque es una pena que vivira por siempre en nosotras, aceptamos sus designios con resignacion.
Mis deseos son que tanto usted como toda su familia goze de una buena salud. Mis pensamientos y oraciones estan con usted. Carinosamente. Lupita Horn.
(Con frecuencia checare esta pagina esperando tener noticias de usted, sera una gran alegria para mi)