Jesus Cardenas Sr.​Jesus Cardenas Sr.


California State University, San Bernardino

One of the most important business and philanthropic figures in the Hispanic community, Jesus Cardenas Sr. was the co-founder of Cardenas Markets, a chain of grocery stores offering Hispanic products in the Inland Empire. He was considered an industry leader and was often referred to as a great example of someone who achieved the "American Dre​am."

As a teenager, Jesus migrated to the United States from Jalisco, Mexico, in 1957, as part of the "Bracero" work program. He worked at local farms and in the 1970s traded some tools for a pregnant pig. That was the start of a successful hog farm as he and his wife and invaluable business partner, Luz Cardenas, began raising pigs on a small piece of land they bought.

The couple sold pork, poultry, chorizo and cheeses, as well as the delicious dishes from Luz's home-cooked recipes from Jalisco. In 1981, they opened their first store in Ontario, selling meat and ethnic foods. Mr. Cardenas served as president and CEO for three decades. Mrs. Cardenas served as vice president and their four children also are involved in the business operations.

In the 1990s, Cardenas Markets began a partnership with Bank of America. Along with that partnership, the Cardenas family built one of the most successful privately owned companies in the Inland Empire. Today, Cardenas Markets has 30 stores in Southern California and Nevada with more than 3,000 employees and more than $800 million in estimated sales.

Jesus and Luz believed in supporting education, health and anything that benefits the quality of life in the communities in which their stores are located. The family founded the Cardenas Markets Scholarship Foundation Inc., which has served as one of the Inland Empire's leading philanthropic organizations.

The Foundation supports programs at Cal State San Bernardino, Cal Poly Pomona, the University of California, Riverside, the University of La Verne, Mt. San Antonio College, Chaffey Community College, College of the Desert and Imperial Valley Community College.

The Cardenas Scholarship Foundation has contributed to other educational efforts in the Inland Empire including The Esperanza Scholarship Foundation, The Inland Empire Scholarship Fund and the Mexican American Grocers Association Scholarship.

In recognition of his many accomplishments and extensive contributions to the university and the community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, San Bernardino are proud to posthumously confer upon Jesus Cardenas Sr. the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.