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Chicagoans of the Year Chicago Magazine

CHICAGO (September 19, 2000) — George L. San Jose’s story begins in Havana, Cuba where he was born 43 years ago. At the age of 11, his family immigrated to the United States in pursuit of a better life in view of the dictatorship in Cuba. In his late teens, George enlisted in the U.S. Air Force to volunteer for the Vietnam War. Later, he would become a leader in one of the fastest growing industries in the Western Hemisphere.

George began his career in Hispanic marketing over two decades ago in New York as Vice President and General Manager for Spanish Advertising and Marketing Services – the first, and ultimately, the largest Hispanic advertising agency in the country, the agency has been cited for launching the U.S. Hispanic ‘Madison Avenue’ advertising era. 

In 1980, noticing that the Hispanic market was growing rapidly throughout the United States, George moved to the heartland of industrial and package goods companies – Chicago, Illinois. At this time, the Chicago Hispanic market was only used for focus groups and test market campaigns. Throughout much of the eighties, the Chicago Hispanic market was an ‘advertising Siberia;’ Hispanics were not yet seen as a growing market force. In addition, advertisers did not have many outlets with which to advertise their products or services due to the lack of Spanish – language newspapers, radio stations and television stations. Instead, Hispanics were expected to assimilate to the larger U.S. cultures as opposed to keeping their much loved language and culture. Speaking Spanish and being of Hispanic origin were, in general, looked down upon. 

Then, in a small room, George set up shop, determined to conquer the Chicago and national Hispanic Market and demonstrate to corporate America that the next Hispanic boom was, in fact, Chicago. In 1981 George started The San Jose Group when the total U.S. Hispanic population was only 12 million. The population has since grown to 34 million and The San Jose Group has grown to become one of the largest independent marketing communications groups in the United States that specializes in reaching the Hispanic and non-Hispanic markets of the U.S. and Latin America. George’s passion for creativity led him to develop a trademarked creative process for Hispanic advertising, which has proven successful in accomplishing sales while also yielding numerous awards and recognition from industry leaders. Most importantly, over the years his strategic and tactical expertise has translated into $2.9 billion in incremental sales for his clients including many Fortune 500 companies. 

George has been recognized by Crain’s, Advertising Age, Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune as a true industry leader. He is a frequent guest speaker on Hispanic marketing techniques. He has also published numerous articles on the subject and has authored the Hispanic advertising industry’s Code of Ethics. He is Co-Founder of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) and continues to shape the industry by serving as an AHAA Board member and as Chairman of the Ethics Committee.

In addition, George has received numerous awards and recognitions for his community service from: Cuban American Chamber of Commerce; Concerned Citizens of Little Village; National Association of Hispanic Publications; Mexican Civic Society; and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In 1999, George was appointed by the President of the United States to serve as a director of the Selected Services System Board of Appeals.

Recently, George received the honor of being nominated by his peers as ‘Advertising Executive of the Year.’