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Hotel owner to Hispanic workers: Change names or you're fired

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Armueller2001, Oct 26, 2009.


  1. Armueller2001

    Armueller2001

    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
    TAOS, N.M. - Larry Whitten marched into this northern New Mexico town in late July on a mission: resurrect a failing hotel.

    The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names.

    No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark.

    Whitten's management style had worked for him as he's turned around other distressed hotels he bought in recent years across the country.

    The 63-year-old Texan, however, wasn't prepared for what followed.

    His rules and his firing of several Hispanic employees angered his employees and many in this liberal enclave of 5,000 residents at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where the most alternative of lifestyles can find a home and where Spanish language, culture and traditions have a long and revered history.

    "I came into this landmine of Anglos versus Spanish versus Mexicans versus Indians versus everybody up here. I'm just doing what I've always done," he says.

    Former workers, their relatives and some town residents picketed across the street from the hotel.

    "I do feel he's a racist, but he's a racist out of ignorance. He doesn't know that what he's doing is wrong," says protester Juanito Burns Jr., who identified himself as prime minister of an activist group called Los Brown Berets de Nuevo Mexico.

    New owner comes in
    The Virginia-born Whitten had spent 40 years in the hotel business, turning around more than 20 hotels in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and South Carolina, before moving with his wife to Taos from Abilene, Texas. He had visited Taos before, and liked its beauty. When Whitten saw that the Paragon Inn was up for sale, he jumped at it.

    The hotel sits along narrow, two-lane Paseo del Pueblo, where souped-up lowriders radiate a just-waxed gleam in the soft sunshine as they cruise past centuries-old adobe buildings. One recent afternoon, a woman slowly rode her fat-tire bicycle along a cracked sidewalk, oversized purple butterfly wings on her back and a breeze blowing her long, blonde dreadlocks.

    The community includes Taos Pueblo, an American Indian dwelling inhabited for over 1,000 years, and an adobe Catholic church made famous in a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.

    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."

    Some employees were fired, Whitten says, because they were hostile and insubordinate. He says they called him "a white (N-word)."

    Fired hotel manager Kathy Archuleta says the workers initially tried to adjust to his style. "We had already gone through four or five owners before him, so we knew what to expect," Archuleta says. "I told (the workers) we needed to give him a chance."

    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.

    Martin Gutierrez, another fired employee, says he felt disrespected when he was told to use the unaccented Martin as his name. He says he told Whitten that Spanish was spoken in New Mexico before English. "He told me he didn't care what I thought because this was his business," Gutierrez says.

    "I don't have to change my name and language or heritage," he says. "I'm professional the way I am."

    'Over the top'
    After the firings, the New Mexico chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a national civil rights group, sent Whitten a letter, raising concerns about treatment of Hispanic workers. Whitten says he sent them a letter and posted messages on the hotel marquee, alleging that the group referred to him with a racial slur. LULAC denied the charge.

    The messages and comments he made in interviews with local media, including referring to townsfolk as "mountain people" and "potheads who escaped society," further enflamed tensions.

    Taos Mayor Darren Cordova says Whitten wasn't doing anything illegal. But he says Whitten failed to better familiarize himself with the town and its culture before deciding to buy the hotel for $2 million. "Taos is so unique that you would not do anything in Taos that you would do elsewhere," he says.

    Whitten grew subdued as a two-hour interview with The Associated Press progressed. He said he was sorry for the misunderstanding and insisted he has never been against any culture.

    "What kind of fool or idiot or poor businessman would I be to orchestrate this whole crazy thing that's costed me a lot of time, money and aggravation?" Whitten said.

    Whitten should have dealt with the situation differently, especially in a majority Hispanic town, said 71-year-old Taos artist Ken O'Neil, while sipping his afternoon coffee on the town's historic plaza.

    "To make demands like he did just seems over the top," he says. "Nobody won here. It's not always about winning. Sometimes, it's about what you learn."

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33479833/ns/us_news-race_and_ethnicity
     
  2. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    I can understand the "speak English around me" part of it. I asked the same of the Mexicans who worked for me in the drywall union.

    -Mike
     
  3. standupright

    standupright

    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow

    why do they have to speak english around you?
     
  4. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Because I need to know what is going on when we are working. I'm not talking about during lunch or breaks or such. I'm talking about during working hours when I would be giving guys assignments, checking on job progress, and so forth.

    -Mike
     
  5. Armueller2001

    Armueller2001

    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
    I'd imagine requesting your employees to speak english around you is similar to the notion that it's rude for people to whisper in front of you.

    Is there a less derogatory term than "Mexican"?








    Disclaimer - the above phrase is from the Office.
     
  6. IconBasser

    IconBasser Scuba Viking Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2007
    Fontana, California
    seems just a tad ridiculous to make his employees change their names... especially when the town itself is populated mostly by Hispanics.
     
  7. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Seriously, that would be like buying a hotel in Berlin and then insisting the workers not speak German or use German pronunciation of their names.
     
  8. Armueller2001

    Armueller2001

    Sep 19, 2006
    Dallas, TX
    Ehhh... not so much. More like moving to Berlin and insisting the workers don't speak French or use French pronunciations of their names.
     
  9. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Right, because Taos NM is as far from Mexico (in both distance, culture, and population) as Germany is from France. :rolleyes:
     
  10. playinpearls

    playinpearls

    Apr 1, 2008
    Atlanta
    yeah. this guy actually knows what he is doing. its nice to see.
    he's like the "sheriff joe" of hotels.

    and of course.....he is a racist. because if you offend someone, and you are white, you are a racist. Even if they are white too. its funny how watered down the word "racist" is becoming. it used to be like the C word to a woman. but now its like "YOU JERK!" in a feminine tone...i'm such a racist.

    Sorry, but if you move to, live in, and choose to work in America... you need to speak english. I've met hundreds of other cultured people from africa, asian, all over...and if they have a name that is hard to pronouce, they say "just call me Bob....Joe.....Matt....even Moe, for Mohammed. they dont throw a little hissy fit about it, they just do it, cause they realize they came to OUR soil.
     
  11. standupright

    standupright

    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    wow...just....wow
     
  12. nortonrider

    nortonrider

    Nov 20, 2007
    Taos Mayor Darren Cordova says Whitten wasn't doing anything illegal. But he says Whitten failed to better familiarize himself with the town and its culture before deciding to buy the hotel for $2 million. "Taos is so unique that you would not do anything in Taos that you would do elsewhere," he says.

    ^^^This^^^

    For the last decade, this part of the country (northern New Mexico, southern Colorado) has seen a lot of growth with people from places like Texas and California.

    Many expecting to move in and start throwing their weight around and doing things like they did them "back home".

    The people in these small towns have become pretty adept at dealing with alot of this type of crap.

    To me it sounds like Hank Hill moved into a community that he didn't understand, tried to change it to his liking and got slapped down for his trouble.

    Believe me, it's not the first time that it has happened.
     
  13. nad

    nad 60 Cycle Humdinger Commercial User

    Sep 22, 2005
    Not Mars
    The Overlord of Nordstrand Pickups
    I read this earlier, and I LOL'd. For a great number of reasons really.
     
  14. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    +1
     
  15. IconBasser

    IconBasser Scuba Viking Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2007
    Fontana, California

    honestly I don't think that his instructions to speak english are what's bad. The directive to change their names is what's offensive.
     
  16. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    It makes sense to speak the language where you live while you are working.

    -Mike
     
  17. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    Maybe he thought as I did, that Taos was populated with people with names like McCloud.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    +1 Perhaps as stupid as offensive.
     
  19. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I don't agree with change your names. I don't have a problem with requiring people in this country speaking English "officially" as it were. What you do in your home or whatever is fine, but if I'm at the bank, post office, McDonald's, etc., I should be able to do a transaction in English.
     
  20. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    I do. The USA would be a much simpler place if every male had the name Mike.

    -Mike
     

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