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Hotel owner tells ‘Spanish’ employees to change their names and ‘speak only English.’

By Amanda Terkel on October 26, 2009 at 12:40 pm

"Hotel owner tells ‘Spanish’ employees to change their names and ‘speak only English.’"

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The AP reports that in Taos, NM, hotel owner Larry Whitten is under fire for his treatment of his Hispanic employees:

After he arrived, Whitten met with the employees. He says he immediately noticed that they were hostile to his management style and worried they might start talking about him in Spanish.

“Because of that, I asked the people in my presence to speak only English because I do not understand Spanish,” Whitten says. “I’ve been working 24 years in Texas and we have a lot of Spanish people there. I’ve never had to ask anyone to speak only English in front of me because I’ve never had a reason to.” [...]

Then Whitten told some employees he was changing their Spanish first names. Whitten says it’s a routine practice at his hotels to change first names of employees who work the front desk phones or deal directly with guests if their names are difficult to understand or pronounce.

It has nothing to do with racism. I’m not doing it for any reason other than for the satisfaction of my guests, because people calling from all over America don’t know the Spanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything,” Whitten says.

Whitten eventually fired many Hispanic several employees for being “hostile and insubordinate.” He further angered the local community when he referred to people in the town as “mountain people” and “potheads who escaped society” during interviews with the press. Watch a video of an August protest against Whitten (which includes one employee named Marcos revealing that he was fired when he refused to change his name to “Mark” or “Bill”):

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