For Alex Castro, El Diario/La Prensa has played such an important role in his life, that he calls it his “silent partner.”
Castro, 59, came to New York undocumented in 1974. Since he didn’t speak English, El Diario became his only source of information. After working in various jobs (dishwasher, floor cleaner), he landed a slot at a hardware store. A few years later, he asked for a raise, which was denied by the owner, “who told me that I didn’t deserve it because I was in the country illegally.
“It was 1977, my daughter had been born. I had many dreams and couldn’t see where a change could come from,” Castro said. “I always used to read El Diario, and suddenly, one day, I saw an ad in the classified section that said ‘Hardware store for sale’.”
Castro asked for the day off and went to see the business. Since he barely had a cent back then, he bought the hardware store by signing loan notes. To be able to pay them back, he worked in his own business during the day and at a restaurant at night.
In 1981, the phone company MCI launched a contest in El Diario/La Prensa. Castro was lucky enough to win it and for a while, he was the face of the company’s advertising, appearing in ads of up to half a page in our newspaper.
“It was $10,000, a lot of money at that time, and what I did was create a 1-800 line and reward my employees with free calls to their relatives,” Castro said.
Today, Castro is a U.S. citizen, his four children graduated from college and his store, C&S Hardware Inc., located at 788 Amsterdam Ave., is one of the most prosperous in the Upper West Side. He is also a member of the New York Chamber of Commerce and last year was recognized by the State Senate as Businessman of the Year.
“In all my achievements, El Diario has been there, like a silent partner,” Castro said.