Castor Fernández (’66, MBA ’68) was 18 years old when—with the encouragement of his parents—he left Cuba to seek a better life in the U.S. The journey took him from Miami to New York City, where a family claimed him as a refugee through the humanitarian organization International Rescue Committee.
It was a challenging time. Mr. Fernández spoke little English; to make ends meet, he took a job in the pet department of Macy’s. Having earned a scholarship to City College “Do
wntown” (now Baruch), he attended Evening Session classes for seven years while working a variety of marketing jobs at the Foreign Advertising and Services Bureau by day. Eventually, armed with both a BBA and an MBA from Baruch, Fernández decided to step out on his own and establish an advertising agency, Castor Spanish International.
“It was not an easy decision,” he says. “It was very scary, since I did not have the same contacts or funds as my competitors.” What Fernández did have, however, was a revolutionary “sub-segmentation” approach to the Latino market, a strategy now followed by all major advertisers. “The differences among Hispanics are many, but every advertiser at the time was addressing the groups as if they were one monolithic unit,” he explains. “I knew I could stand out from the crowd. Because while Hispanics all speak Spanish and understand each other, our heritage and cultures are vastly different.”
Segmentation was not an easy sell, Fernández says, because it required an intrinsic knowledge of various cultures. But it proved incredibly effective. Castor Spanish International would become the leading Hispanic agency and the single-largest recipient of creative awards in the U.S. Hispanic ad sector.
Though he retired in 2002 after 40-plus years in the industry, Fernández hasn’t slowed down. In addition to enjoying time with his family—his wife of more than 40 years, Tanya; their two children; and three grandchildren—he also travels, rides motorcycles, and is working toward his pilot’s license. “Hispanic advertising has been very good to me,” he says. “I look back and am very thankful to God, the United States, and Baruch College!”
—Gregory M. Leporati