Luz Cardenas Sr.Luz Cardenas Sr.


California State University, San Bernardino

Luz Cardenas and her late husband, Jesus Cardenas Sr. are the founders of the grocery store food chain Cardenas Markets, one of the most successful privately owned companies in the Inland Empire.​

The couple is considered to be among the most important business figures in the Hispanic community, and among the Inland Empire's leading philanthropists. Jesus passed away on March 5, 2013.

The Cardenas story is a classic example of achieving the "American Dream." After Mr. Cardenas 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 Jesus and Luz began raising pigs in a small piece of land they bought.

Mrs. Cardenas was an invaluable business partner as the couple sold pork, poultry, chorizo and cheeses, as well as the delicious dishes from her 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 with their four children also involved in the business operations.

In the 1990s, Cardenas Markets began a partnership with Bank of America. 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 also 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 her 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 confer upon Luz Cardenas the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.