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October 27th, 2009
10:19 AM ET

Hotel owner under fire for telling Hispanics to change names

Imagine having your boss tell you that you need to change your name to something more American sounding. That's just what one man asked some of the employees to do at his New Mexico inn, and it has many in the area outraged.

Larry Whitten, owner of the Whitten Inn, and his attorney Alan Maestas, spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday. Below is an edited transcript of that interview.

Kiran Chetry: Larry, let me just ask you, first of all, about the controversy that's going on. Explain when you took over this hotel, renamed it the Whitten inn – you've taken over failing hotels in other places. You moved there to Taos with your wife and some of the moves that you made at this hotel are generating a lot of controversy. How do you see it? What's been going on?

Whitten: Well, my operation is taking over distressed hotels and correcting as many problems as quickly as possible to reduce the outflow of cash. It's a simple procedure, a proven procedure of retraining everyone to be a professional hotelman, and up to this point it's been very successful.

Chetry: Well, in this case, you told your employees that you wanted them to change their names. Is that true? MAR-TEEN, you wanted him to be Martin instead?

Alan Maestas: That's actually not accurate. What he said was that he wanted people on the switchboard to use a name that people calling from all over the world would understand. He didn't ask them to change their names. He simply wanted the name at the switchboard something that was understandable.

Chetry: So how is that not changing their name?

Maestas: Well, for example, people say what's your name, and I say my name is Alan Maestas. Just call me Alan, because it's easier for people to understand. It’s more hospitable, it’s more polite.

Chetry: But isn't that your name?

Maestas: It is my name.

Chetry: In this case, one of the employees said his name was MAR-TEEN, not Martin.

Maestas: I understand that. But the point is changing the name was only the name to be used on the switchboard so people would understand it. Off the switchboard, he could use whatever name he wanted.

Chetry: Larry, how did the employees respond? As I also understand, you told them you didn't want them speaking Spanish in your presence, you wanted them to be speaking English and some of them were upset by that as well.

Whitten: Well, Kiran, when you take over distressed property, naturally, there are a lot of bad things that have been going on, still going on. So I was faced, as normal, with a great – a little bit more – a great deal of hostility. It was immediate. Cooperation was not there. And that at this meeting that I held the first day I was here, with this in mind, I asked them to speak English around me, but by all means, when my guests come in the doors, you accommodate that guest, and if it's Spanish, whatever language it may be, whatever language they speak, you take care of my guests. When they're in their own departments talking amongst themselves, use whatever language is comfortable to them.

Chetry: You said that as a result of this, some of your employees were hostile and insubordinate. That resulted in you letting some of them go. Now you've got a problem on your hands in that some of these employees are outside picketing. I mean, none of this can be good for business. Is this how you intended things to happen?

Maestas: You're not exactly accurate. The employees that were let go aren't the ones out there picketing. …

Chetry: You're doing the legalese stuff and I totally get it, but the bottom line is people are angry in this town. People are picketing in this town. Larry himself says it's costing him money, costing him business. Is this what you intended the outcome to be of this situation? You say you were going in there to try to make a distressed hotel a viable business.

Whitten: Well, certainly not. My method is one that I've used for 20 different hotels. The results here have not been good and I certainly did not do anything intentionally. My partner and I spent several million dollars to come to this beautiful land of enchantment. It would idiotic for me to purposely offend the great culture of the Spanish. You could really call me stupid, but I'm not a racist. No intention has ever been done purposely to insult anyone. It was a matter of procedure and, you know, hasn't been good and if I could take it all back, I’d snap my finger.

Chetry: Really? So you say if you could take it all back, you would. Going forward, how do you propose to handle the situation? How do you want to sort of make things right and make sure that this situation doesn't end up costing you and also the people who work there?

Whitten: Well, the people out front that are protesting, I've offered to mediate with them, I've offered to speak with them with no results. So all we can do is go forward, keep doing a great job remodeling. We're spending half a million dollars here. I am certainly more tolerant of the Spanish names. We're working to just make sure that my guest hears a distinct name and just go forward.

Chetry: All right. And one other quick note. A national civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens, issued a statement, but in part they're saying they're encouraging people in the Hispanic community not to patronize any of Mr. Whitten's establishments here or outside the state of New Mexico. They've sent copies about the situation. This is coming from Pablo Martinez, the state director there. How is this affecting your business, that they're asking people not to patronize your hotels because of this?

Whitten: Well, I wrote Mr. Martinez a letter and explained my situation, apologized for, you know, coming to town, hitting the deck in the wrong way and I wish for him to understand I had no ill intentions. I don't know the ramifications, you know. If we can undo everything, that's what we want to do.


Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. someone from taos

    I do believe Whitten is a fool. I was born and raised in Taos and I am proud of being Hispanic. Spanish has been spoken in New Mexico years before it officially became a state, and yes BOTH spanish and english are the official languages. Most of us who live in Taos are bilingual. Just because we know spanish doesn't mean we can't speak proper english.
    Taos is very strong when it comes to heritage and we are not afraid to show it. Everyone backs eachother up, no matter what race you are. Taos is such a unique place to live, and that's one thing Whitten does not understand. He simply did not do his research on this town.
    We, Taosenos, are not afraid to stand up for our beliefs and say how we really feel. New Mexico has many traditions to celebrate our spanish heritage, and they are not going away anytime soon.
    For him to ask employees to change their names is just wrong, simple as that. He had no right.
    He said he asked for their name to be changed so his customers would better understand. Marcos and Martin are both common names around the U.S. Even on CNN the interviewer said Martin was not hard to understand and she doesn't live in New Mexico. He basically called his customers stupid. I support the protestors and honk like hell everytime I pass them.
    If they did have a difficult spanish names like Guillermo or Cirpriano, maybe things would have been different.

    November 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  2. Santa Fean

    Spanish has been spoken since at least the 1600's in New Mexico . These people are bilingual and US citizens by birth right!!!

    I agree with Leroy ~ There was an original report that the owner didn't want Spanish being spoken . Because he felt something was being said about him. As long as there's been a master or a boss, the subordinates will speak of him/her, regardless of language, culture or geographical location!!!

    This is a NATIONWIDE problem . It does not matter if it was pure Latin
    being spoken. Face it , demographics of language and culture are changing with time in the U.S.A. (NOT America ) because America stretches from Canada to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. Time changes everything there are those who are scared and want to cling to the old.

    I work for a B&B and when guests bother to learn my name they actually find it pretty. My native language is Spanish but I am fully bilingual and I also can understand other languages. It isn't hard to learn if you actually have interest in learning and becoming a better person through knowledge (and compassion). Greeting guests in Greek, Russian, German, etc (whichever their native language may be) brings a smile to their face. If I can learn other languages to provide better service, why can't Mr Whitten bother to learn Spanish so that he doesn't have to be so paranoid?

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Did Mr Schwarzenegger change his name to become successful in movies or to win the election as governor of California? Did Mr Blagojevich change his last name to win the election as governor of Illinois? These are "hard" to pronounce names Right? Get the idea?

    November 3, 2009 at 10:13 pm |
  3. Kiki

    I dont have a problem with what this guy is doing. My name is Enrique, and throught my life(im 20) people who arent hispanic cant pronounce it. They've called me Ricky to make it easier,and i dont have a problem with it, in fact i think my life would have easier if i had been named Ricky. It was my great grandpas name, but he lived his whole life in Mexico, and i live in Chicoago.

    October 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Joane Johnson

    To the person who spoke of the President's name. You haven't a clue as to when he stopped, if ever, using his middle name. You just assumed. You do know what they say about that, don't you. Why should his middle name, Hussein, not be used? It is an old and honored name and not just in Islam. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was called 'Jack'. Your point? If the person had been called Adolph, you would not have blinked an eye. Who cares what you can or cannot pronounce. What the average American cannot pronounce is embarrassing. It has nothing to do with english or any other foreign language. Just every day common words. That irritates me more than anything else. 'Youse guys' is one of the most irritating. if the name is Juan, Myoshi, Nikkoli, Vladamir, Gupta, etc., I will learn it and say it with glee.

    October 29, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  5. adrienne

    I think its sad to see some of the comments posted here. What makes anyone think that they are better than another person. What is America all about. Do you think that it is only one race of people dying over seas or fighting for this country??? It shouldn't matter what language you speak or what nationality you claim because together we all make up what is known as the USA...yes, even the illegal residents. To think that only the hispanic live off of welfare and so on is just ignorant! Everyone takes pride in something and often their family and names, who has the right to make it manditory to change that. Maybe this is blown out of proportion, but the comments that are being made here are even more blown out of proportion! I would just like to say that I am proud to be an American and I am proud of my family history as well, and even though I have spanish roots, my brother isn't afraid to fight in the Army and risk his life and give up his life for this Country even though he would have never had that opprotunity had our father not come to the United States illegally. Think of how many of our men and women who are out there fighting for some of your sorry butts wouldn't be doing that tough job if it weren't for their families and their history to come to this country... How many Americans won 't let their children join the forces and fight for our freedom even though their families were origionally from the U.S.A? Just be thankful for your freedom, even to say stupid things, and quit trying to make racial comments and accept that the USA is made up of many nationalities. Have your opinions, but at least try to be respectful! God bless our troops and even with all the "little things" going on, you are still the number ONE issue in my prayers. THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SACRIFICES!

    October 29, 2009 at 12:14 am |
  6. Dan Green

    Everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that there are millions of unemployed people in this country right now that would let you call them "gorilla face" if it meant having a job. And if I were living in Taos, I know I'd have a job there. That's because I've worked for him before. He doesn't just take care of his employees while they're working for him. He takes care of them from now on.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:14 pm |
  7. Mark

    Let's take out the emotions and strip this down to a basic question, does a business owner have legal grounds to set policy concerning thier employees appearance and behavior at work?

    I believe the answer is "yes." Most places of business set policy for dress and appearance and even have policy that limits the freedom of speech in the workplace (no profanity, that limits my freedom of speech).

    The spoken language is no different. If there is a need to speak ANY language to complete a business transaction, then it is in the best interest of the business owner to set policy that ensures the transactions can occur smoothly.

    -

    By the way ccordova, the President, Barack Osama Obama has gone by Barry for a good portion of his life. In addition, he did not use his middle name during the campaign. You see, even the President realizes that what he is called can change the perception of who he is.

    October 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  8. Juan not Johnny Rios not Rivers

    Mr. Larry Whitten my name is not Johnny is Juan and my last name is not Rivers is Rios is this automatically disqualifies me from spending money in your hotel?

    I want to remind you "LAURO" ouch I'm sorry Larry; you are doing business in Nuevo Mexico get it? Nuevo Mexico not VIRGINIA, New Mexico my friend! while English has been spoken for 150 years in this land Spanish has been spoken for more than 400 years don't you ever forget that Mr. "LAURO BLANQUEADO" (Larry Whitten).

    Thank you for your time.

    October 28, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  9. L

    It is ignorant to assume the employees do not know how to speak English. Contrary to what some may think, these employees are fluent English speakers and speak Spanish because they choose to. This is not an issue of poor manners, but rather a matter of a simple freedom. Many of the locals who work there are quite probably decendants of early Spanish explorers who settled there, whose families have lived in the Taos ares for generations, much longer than persons like Larry Whitten, who have moved there not to make Taos their home, but to make money. It is a mistake for non-Spanish speakers to be defensive when Spanish is spoken around them. Furthermore, anyone who has been in any other part of the United States hears any of hundreds of different languages spoken daily everywhere, in the hotels of NY, taxi cabs in DC, or any other place in this big land of immigrants. Asking the employees to change their names is an outrage! This is at the core of changing who their are! Furthermore, this opens up the floodgates, for all persons who have names that originate in other countries to change their names to easier, more "polite" names such as Larry Jones, Mary Smith, etc.
    I am an educated, proud, native born New Mexican whose ancestors date back to the 1600s. How long does Larry Whitten's family date back to? I was of the opinion that our country prided itself on being open to all cultures. Where has Larry Whitten been? New Mexico is a multicultural, multiligual state that is friendly and tolerant of differences in all people and has always welcomed newcomers to our state. Many residents of this country and of our beautiful state, including myself, are finding it incredibly difficult to be tolerant of Larry Whitten and his backward, ignorant, and racist philosophies.

    October 28, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  10. E. HANSON

    I think this man has every right to ask his employees to speak english around him and at the switch board of the hotel. I don't like to call a customer help line and get someone who can not speak good english. I can not even understand some of their names because it is not only hard to say but the person giving me their name does not speak good english if any at all. Finally, someone has made the decision to put customers first and I am proud to see it. I think this is an example for other businesses to follow!

    October 28, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  11. Rick

    It is ridiculous that Americans cannot be bothered to listen to someone and learn their name, let alone look eye to eye at someone and speak kindly any more. It is disrespectful. This situation is the same as when you reach a call center for an American company which happens to be based in India. Silly to give Indians an anglicized name so that we can "understand." Pay attention; learn from someone else's original culture, pronounce and spell their name. It's not that difficult. We can drive cars, go to work, navigate technology etc. Shame on us for our smugness and arrogance. It's a small world, America; not the Universe of America.

    October 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  12. Joane Johnson

    To the pretentious one. Al Sharpton has nothing to do with any of this. think of someone else. How about David Dukes. that works better. It represents your actual tone. One quick question. If you are with people who speak another language you do not understand and you feel it is rude, do you speak their language when you are the odd person out(say in France) in their presence? Wouldn't that be considered rude because you may be talking about them, also? See how stupid that reasoning is?

    October 28, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  13. Joane Johnson

    it really is sad to read some of these posts. I have spoken to Indians, Pakistani, Japanese, Chinese, French, all with heavy accents. I LISTENED and understood them. If I did not I asked them to repeat themselves, without the dimwitted attitude. I would as no one to change their names. I love foreign names especially gaelic. I am a black woman. I know how it feels to have your heritage taken from you. Your name. I am ancestry hunting, now. In my industry we speak to many people. The biggest problem has been the accent but the one that angered so many people on the phones would really surprise you. One of my co-workers received a call and with utter frustration asked me to take it since I seemed not to have a problem with accents. I did to it's pleasant conclusion. Were they from China, France, Russia? NOOOOOO. They were from Louisiana. A southerner. What was the excuse for that one? My nieces, 15 and 13 are teaching themselves Japanese. To speak it and to write it. My 7 yr old grandson and his 3 yr old sister are learning Chinese. The wonderful thing, people of both cultures are helping(at our respective jobs). Giving tidbits and writing lesson plans. I love it.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  14. ccordova

    How ignorant can these reponses be! I live in Taos, NM. I have joined in the protesting myself because I believe in the equal rights of ALL people. These people who were terminated are not immigrants who are working to send money back home as stated in one of the comments above. Their families have lived in the region for hundreds of years. Their ancestors did not come from other countries to escape persecution. This was their own land that was invaded by those same people fleeing persecution elsewhere. This country was founded by immigrants, but now if we are not "American" enough we are seen as foreigners in our own country. I teach my kids to respect their heritage, just as my parents taught me. Just because a man with money comes to town does not mean that we have to do everything he says. If Mr. Whitten came to Taos before his purchase how could he not see the culture of Taos? It is everywhere, from street names to the adobe buildings that blanket the town. That is what its residents love about it. This should not be about about race. It should be about equal rights as employees. President Obama did not change his name to become president. A name has nothing to do with job performance. These people should not be asked to change their names to do their jobs.

    October 28, 2009 at 1:19 am |
  15. Anna

    If English is a requirement of the job and the employee refuses – why do they still have the job? Obviously you can't do the job at 100%, like you're being paid to do, if you can't or won't speak the language. Learn the language or loose the job and get one where the language barrier is not a problem. If Dell Computers hired a spanish speaking person and they couldn't help the English speaking person who called in, or even transfer the call, then would Dell be in trouble for telling them to learn English? If I got on an Airplane and the seatbelt instructions were done in German, and most of the other passengers didn't understand, isn't that a problem? Get a grip an employer, who is paying you to do a job, needs the job done and can only have that done if he can communicate with you.

    October 28, 2009 at 1:03 am |
  16. Anna

    If a person wants to work in America, wait on Americans, and take home a paycheck from an American owned business, absolutely should they be required to speak English. I've been around spanish speaking men, (I am a woman) and have felt uncomfortable and scared because I don't know what they are saying. This can be seen as a security issue nad safety isses. If someone from another country comes here to live, if they enjoy our freedoms, then enjoy our culture which includes our language.

    October 28, 2009 at 12:54 am |
  17. Gail Diaz

    Also, if he has Spanish speaking employees, he should consider learning Spanish!

    October 27, 2009 at 11:29 pm |
  18. Gail Diaz

    What struck me the most when watching this interview was how Whitten kept referring to the guests at the hotel as "my guests." If you come in, take over a hotel, and then start using the "my" word instead of the "we" word, that's mistake number one. I wasn't there when he talked with his employees about using a name that would be easier for the guests to say and understand, but I think he must have positioned it wrong. If he positioned it as a suggestion and not a requirement, he would not be in the position he is in. I am surprised that he has been so successful up to this point. Good for the employees for speaking up!

    October 27, 2009 at 11:27 pm |
  19. kevin67

    i was at a hospital today in nyc and at the front desk two spanish lady were spoken spanish and i couldn't understand a word and they were gigling to my face . i was thinking if they were talking about me and saying funny things or insulting. i am not an amarican i am from europe and my mative laungage is not english but i would not speak my laungage at the front of the people unless if it is really nececaty. those two lady they were well english spoken people. i felt it was very rude and they were treating people unfearly . they were not doing their jobs properly and i lost 2 hours becaouse of their culturel and social issues. now some people might think i am a racist but i am not. i go wit person not gorups unfotunatly the issues they are cariying with them selfs it effects everbodys life. i changed my name with my own willing becaouse people could not pronance and remember my name. there is nothing wrong to expect from people if they are coming from other coutries they should respect and undertand the new culture they are been in. if i would be living in spanish speaking country first thing i would do learn spanish as well. i think this country and people who is living in they are the most welcoming people to the people who is coming from other countiries. i have been so many placess america is the best and most self destructible country in this issue. liberalizm is not been subbmisive it is actualy protecting it with mutual respect , in here democrats and who is supporting democrats just taking adavantace on it. they are not real democrats they just want more and more from this couintries people , who is really working and producing. most of the people in here even they don't know what real democrasy is. please amaericans wake up and smell the cofee before it is too late. subbision will bring you an invasion and it will be very late when you will start to protect your rights. it is your money and your countyr it is not the goverments working to make money they take more and more from the amaricans then they can give more to the poor people(thats what they say poor people which mean who is not working ant they have no intention to work) then they can be elected again . it is just their huge ego and they want to feel importat and they like to feel they are doing something to the humanity. this is the only way they would ever felt good becoause they are unhappy and this cost you more tax money. ironic i am not american and i start to feel like this since two years, when i moved to in west 19 st where the procets are (goverment housing which only brings drug deals and viaolance everyday) and statr seen who is living in those and they are very vioalent and all they do smoke pat and hang out all day long. none of them is in any condition tehy coudn't work. i sopke with some of them and they were telling me how to not work and make babies then get more money form the goverments. if they don't married then single mom gets money , still father lives in the house but father shows diffrent address and they are not married on the papaer. thsi is just one example. i would ask unemployment money also or i would look for other things form the goverment but i have dignity and respect to my self and people. i neven done such a thing wht they should? why our goverment should allow them for this? all becaouse their vote , their vote is the power on your goverment.

    October 27, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  20. Francesco

    The amount of blatant xenophobia is really disgusting in this country.

    October 27, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  21. Gabe M

    Why is that “WE, THE PEOPLE”, need to change our way of life to satisfy the needs of some “SPANISH IMMIGRANTS” that don’t care about learning the language of the land, and on top of that, complain about it. New Mexico belongs to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the language there, as well as the remaining States, is “ENGLISH”. Our ancestors, also immigrants, learned the language of the land and nobody complained. Who are these Spanish speaking people trying to impose their own language in a country that is not even theirs? English is the language of this great land, and if you don’t like it, the exit door is always open. Billions have learned English, including me, so what make these “individuals” complain about the way American business should be run. He’s not asking “them” to break the law, he’s not asking “them” to do anything that will put their life or the life of others in danger. This man is asking his employees to “RESPECT THE LANGUAGE OF THE LAND” in order to conduct his business in a professional matter.
    This is the United States of America and I, as a citizen, I’m tired of listening to the constant “whinning” and “complains” that most of this “VISITORS” have.
    All this is part of the Anti-American Mexican groups, behind the picket line.
    Then I wonder, what is the legal status of some of these “VISITORS”.

    October 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm |
  22. Juan John Hans

    White people walk on eggshells because no matter what you do you are considered racist. Can groups that are non-caucasian ever be racist? Not likely. The laws that are set up are so out of whack with common sense that the only thing we can do is scrap the whole legal system, every by law and code and get back to common sense. This is a business owner and each business must operate successfully. He broke no laws and shouldn't be apologetic. The LULAC should be sued if anything. Undermining a business under the blanket of 'racism' is comparable to crying rape when there was no rape. The target for these 'racism' charges are 9 times out of 10 against whites. Being a person of mixed descent, I am sick that so much emphasis is placed on race. Get over it!! Treat each other how they treat you. We are all biased. It is important that we realize our biases and don't let them affect others.

    October 27, 2009 at 5:12 pm |
  23. Gabaldon, that's gav-al-don' (span)

    Business owners in the hospitality industry want employees who are hospitable, approachable, identifiable, friendly, not so touchy who can and WILL speak English to and in the presence of guests, making the guest feel appreciated and welcomed. These employees totally miss the mark. They were not approachable, hospitable, friendly. Travelers deserve to see, hear, smell, taste the best, most tasty, fragrance of the hispanic culture. The good food, the sweet music, yes the melodious language. But travelers don't feel safe with insubordinate, demonstrating employees. What else are they going to try to pull? Do you dare go to sleep? I don't think these employees are thinking of doing a good job worthy of gratuity in this industry. He should fire 'em all and start over staffing with people experienced in hospitality – those who know where their money comes from. Screw your employer, you all lose your job; offend guests, you earn no gratuity.
    And Taos get mighty cold in winter...

    October 27, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  24. Alma

    What ever happen to the united states land of the free? shouldn't we all have the freedom to speak whatever language we choose?! I won't stop speaking any of the languages I know just for the ignorance of some people.
    If this man that hired them knew better, why hire them at all if they couldn't speak the language! But of course he wants to play dumb now that he is put on the spot. No one has the right to obligate another person to learn a language whether it be English, Spanish, and so on! I think people that bring legal status, money issues, and false accusations towards one single group or race of people is a raciest!
    I agree English is need to an extent, people who don't speak the "main" language of this country should learn it, if they are having trouble. Just to make things easier for them selves. 🙂 As for me, I am working on my third language and proud to say I like bettering my life! Not to mention the great pay I'm going to be receiving off being an interpreter! regardless of whom ever disagrees with me.

    October 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  25. Stephanie C.

    Not everyone can learn another language and while Spanish is the secondary language in the US, it is rather rude to speak a language that not all in present company can understand. Even though I do speak/understand Spanish, I still feel uncomfortable if there is someone in my group that is at a loss for the language. I believe that we should all have a common language, which of course is the English language.

    October 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  26. Rick Anaya

    I live in the area of Taos, NM and there's a couple of key facts that haven't been stated yet about Mr. Whitten's situation. First, many of his Hispanic employees are bilingual like myself and write and speak english very well. Mr. Whitten imposed his "speak english only" policy because he assumed they were going to speak negatively about him in the Spanish language due to his strict management style, so he wanted to ensure that didn't happen. Secondly, there are many, many hispanics who are employed in the hotel and restaurant industry in practically every city of New Mexico and never has there been a communication problem between those individuals and the patrons of those businesses. Therefore, that excuse is totally bogus. Mr. Whitten just didn't count on his employees standing up for themselves...and he also didn't count on being on CNN as the racist he really is.

    October 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  27. Mark

    As I am reading about this, I am watching HLN. I wonder if the anchor decided that she wanted to speak her native tounge because of her heritage/background, what the network would think/do?

    I think the example is obvious. There are work situations that dictate how you dress and talk.

    At the office I work in, people are free to speak whatever language they want to speak when they are talking to each other. But, when they are speaking to U.S. clients, they answer the phone in English. Then, if the client is, for example, hispanic they can talk in whatever language makes them comfortable.

    Businesses have to be able to make policy that will ensure they can serve thier clientel. If "toning down" other than English while clients are around makes the client more comfortable, that's part of pleasing the client.

    October 27, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  28. Bizbee

    AGREE WITH OWNER. The main language in this country is, should be English. If the employees don't want to learn to speak English, then go work for someone else. Yes, it is rude and annoying to go off to a place of stay and hear conversations in a different language by employees. It's like being in a foreign country.

    However, do feel that the owner should not touch an employee's name, unless he truly can't pronounce it. BUT GLAD THAT THIS GUY HAS GUTS.

    October 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  29. Claudia

    What about when he called us hispanics from Taos, New Mexico "MOUNTIAN PEOPLE & POT HEADS" or When he called one of his employee's 'BUCKWHEAT"?

    October 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  30. USA

    It is his business, they should respect his decisions or go somewhere else. It is that simple!!!

    October 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  31. Flea

    Charlou – ovearboard? guses? spoke? adimant? woired? ar? interpeter? Help, I think I need a translator to help me read your post!!You are so "adimant" (sp) about English being the language of the United States, yet it is so sad to read your post and see all the grammatical horrors you have posted in ENGLISH. It always amuses me when this topic comes up, and the persons defending the English-only stance cannot even spell in the language they are defending. No one in this country is a true American, except for Native Americans. The United States is too young of a nation to make that claim. From the Mayflower forward, this country has been founded on the hard work of immigrants. If you look through your family tree, you will see at some point it branches off to something other than "American".

    October 27, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  32. Chambuman

    Hello Guys! This is another new low in the so called US of A! Changing names....I for one will never do that....that too sometime my parents gave me.....no matter what my employer thinks. Whats wrong with these Yankees....the demographic of this country is changing...deal with it....dudes! (like it or not). This is pathetic! Its another form of exploitation of the so called society here...in the name of the private enterprise.

    October 27, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  33. dawn

    OMG, I am so tired of the race card being pulled out everytime mexicans don't like something. I wish you would all go back to mexico! Im sick of paying for your welfare, food stamps, child care and medical needs. If i am ever in the area, i will be sure to look up this guys hotel, I would love to be able to still go somewhere in the US and not have to listen to freakin spanish.

    October 27, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  34. Gabaldon, that's gav-al-don' (span)

    Dear Leroy, and Alan, Hispanic men are my favorite... good, sweet- spirited feedback. But did you know Norsemen, (Vikings) left runestones on these shores 1000 AD; and some say Templar Knights with norlanders were here 1362 leaving dated runestones? (Did you know Colombo was connected to the Temlars – check out the big red cross on his ships?) Does that mean we all speak Nordik, Swedish, or ancient Norse language? Or maybe we should all learn this continent's original Tewa, Navajo or Cherokee? They have a written language I hear. But the problem with ancient languages is that modern realities – modern medicine, eastern medicines, sciences, math, tech truths, space sciences do not exist in some of these languages and would have to be re-tooled anyway...just like ancient Hebrew. But we *now* have the greatest nation in history; tooled by Euros who escaped authoritarian kings. We have the language of the founders. Let us not fragment and divide ourselves any farther. United we will stand – divided we could fall.
    Te amo. luv ya.

    October 27, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  35. Rosebud

    I am glad the hotel owner apologized at the end of the interview and I hope they all eventually work together. All to often though, people move into a new environment and culture and expect things to work in the same way they are used to wherever they are from. Apparently this man came into this environment expecting the culture and the climate to bend to his will. Its about cultural sensitivity. Way too many people lack it. And contrary to Charlou statements... Americans do need to learn to speak more than one language and living in closeted view of the world and learn to respect other cultures. WE are a nation of immigrants, and English was not the first language. Its sad we have so many xenophobic citizens in the country.

    October 27, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  36. Philip

    My name is Philip. In France, it's Phillippe. In Mexico, it's Philipe. When I go to Mexico, I do not expect them to speak English. I do my best, having no formal educational experience with the Spanish language, to speak it. When I go to France, I do not expect them to speak English. I do my best, having minimal educational experience with the French language, to speak it. When not in your home country, it was instilled in me to be respectful of that countries language and culture. So to expect America (the United States, not North America) to be treated with the SAME respect is now somehow wrong?

    October 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  37. Beth

    This is still America last I checked. I hate it when I am in a store, restaurant, etc and people are speaking Spanish. It is rude and uncalled for. If they want to live in America they need to learn English and that is our language. I am trying to learn their language, but again this is America.

    October 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  38. Gabaldon, that's gav-al-don' (span)

    Luv ya, ______. But it is clear by your tones and inflections you don't like hearing the importance and wisdom of one language in USA. You seem to try to front load the responses of many professionals giving real testimony as to why professionals and business people need standardized, understandable communications. And why we Russians, Germans, Native Americans, Italians, Slovaks all learned English and simplified our names so others could communicate with us and call us by name. Only latinos feel they don't need to become part of they process of melding into the melting pot. And you are OK with that. Everyone knows how on Ellis Island interviewers really had a time trying to spell the Slovak, Greek, Scottish names so all could communicate with one another.
    Wa, wa, wa. bunch o' crybabies. go away. go somewhere else. Taosenos stay backward. You don't deserve visitors, you're inhospitable. I think it's arrogant and rude to live here and speak exclusively in another language around American countrymen.

    October 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  39. Cheryl Klepper

    Why are Hispanics so sensitive about being told to speak English. This is America and its main language is English. The rest of the world sees America as English speaking country. Outside of America it is perceived that when they make contacts with American people it is English that will be spoken.

    I am a Natiave American, having lived off the reservation for over 40 years, and over the years have noticed that my people are not whining of having to be spoken to in their native tongue. They make the effort to learn the English language, some of the older generations with only little or no formal education.

    The more LULAC makes noise about race related issues of the people it attempts to serve, the more they create dissensions.

    October 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  40. Faith

    I applaud Mr. Whitten. Yes, we need to be sensitive to all cultures (don't forget to include yours) and yes we need to sensitive to this and that Isn’t it enough that we have to press 1 for English? Mr. Whitten is correct the caller should be able to understand the CSR that they are speaking with it can become very frustrating when you the caller cannot understand what the CSR is saying. What is wrong with asking your employee to say their name is Sally instead of Salendonia (which I cant pronouce). It's all business not personal and people need to realize this. When I was stationed in Germany I did my best to learn the language. This great country of ours is filled with a bunch of cry babies and loud mouths, enough already Mr. Whitten is trying to make ammends deal with it!! It seems the League of United Latin American Citizens would rather blow this issue out of propotion and possibily close the place; have they forgotten what citizens will be standing in the unemployment lines if that happens.

    October 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  41. Megan

    I do not feel that Mr. Whitten did anything wrong. What's wrong with asking your employees to use an easy-to-understand name on calls? I know of huge corporations that do the same. This is not an uncommon practice. I think that Mr. Whitten is being portrayed unfairly in this story.

    October 27, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  42. Guy in CA

    It took this guy a media storm and picketing lines to apologize. The only reason he has apologized is because it is costing him money. Telling someone to change their name is atrocious and he deserves what comes his way.

    October 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  43. Randy

    While I don't necessarily agree with Mr. Whitten's methods, I do agree with the reasons behind them.
    There was a time when people from other parts of the world came to the USA (legally) to "become" Americans, to join and become part of the fabric of our country, not chage the USA into an extension of the country they came from, which is sadly what is happening today.
    Many who come here don't want to be an American, they just want the the benefits of being Americans without actually becoming Americans. And by Americans I mean the United States of America.
    Once, people came here and one of the things they did was enrole in english classes. No one can come up with a good reason why a person comes to my country and expects me to lean their language vs. they learning to speak english. A common language is one form of glue that binds a society.
    I, for one, am sick and tired of those who claim they want to "maintain their heritage" when they come here. Well, guess what? I want maintain ours in my country as well. If people want to maintain or improve opon whatever heritage they have, they should remain in their country's and try to fix whats wrong there, not come here and change mine.
    This latest issue is taking place in New Mexico. Guess what? It's not new and its not Mexico!

    October 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  44. Anthony

    This not just Black and White issue-fear of difference is what fueling poor behaviors/reactions towards others of different race. If you cannot live with other types of people outside your box. Join Bin Laden and hide in a cave too.

    October 27, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  45. Brian O'Connor

    Have any of these critics ever called to get a computer repaired, or even their cable bill reviewed? Many of these services are outsourced to Asia. Even so, it is always Bill or Mary who answers the phone. Why? Because this puts the primary audience at ease. So why should a hotel reservations desk be any different?

    As for speaking a native language while at work, it seems to me that an employer has a right to mandate a single language for professional exchanges. This is the hospitality business. Guests should be comfortable asking any employee for aid. If they are uncomforatable because they are unsure if there is a language barrier, then the facility is less hospitable – and less profitable.

    I assume that the new owner was not at all popular, because he wanted to change the habits of employees – habits that might have led to the lack of success of the previous owners. There is enough bona fide discrimination around to address. Situations like this only water down the legitimate complaints. In a bad economy, this individual is providing jobs and investing in a community. Perhaps they woudl all feel better at a Spanish speaking unemployment office?

    October 27, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  46. Nikki

    I think that he has every right to ask his employees to speak english. The primary language in the united states is English.

    I happen to work at a hotel and a majority of our employees are spanish speaking workers. We at least need them to know the basics of the English language so that they can communicate with the staff and our guests. There have been times when our guests ask for something and the houskeeper doesn't understand so they just respond "ok or yes". It does cause an issue from time to time.

    I understand where the hotel owner is coming from but he should choose who he hires better. If he wants his guests and staff to be able to understand his employees he should make sure when doing interviews that they can make it through the interview without a translator.

    October 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  47. Joane Johnson

    No the history of America and her treatment of people she considers less than leads to misunderstandings such as this. Native American had their children stolen from them, hair shaved and indoctrinated in the anglo culture. My people were taken from Africa, culture taken, names taken and forced into the anglo culture. Anyone who comes here has to give up who they are for you. Yet, you go to France, Italy, Germany, Japan, etc., and are just as insulted because THEY don't speak English. (Most do, they just like irritating you) If you lived in either of the afore mentioned countries, you would speak more than one language and in a some cases 3 to 4 of them. No big deal. My best friend a speaks 6, fluently. Most Americans think it is beneath us. Yet, per one of the posts, some Americans can't do it correctly when they speak or write it.

    October 27, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  48. Rita

    This guy is a first rate idiot! He said "It would idiotic for me to purposely offend the great culture of the Spanish. You could really call me stupid, but I'm not a racist. No intention has ever been done purposely to insult anyone. It was a matter of procedure and, you know, hasn't been good and if I could take it all back, I’d snap my finger. " 1st of all the Mexicans certainly are NOT the "culture of the Spanish" they are distinctly and uniquley Mexican. Yes the have been influenced by the Spanish but in most cases not willingly. The indigneous peoples of Mexcio had the Spanish culture forced upon them, and now they are once again being forced to endure assimilation for survivial purposes becuase even in this day and age we cannot accept diversity for its beauty; we have to degrade it as an "annoyance" to our "American" culture.

    October 27, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  49. Jenni

    Mr. Whitten is perfectly correct to expect his empolyees to speak English. English is the language of the United States. It is rude to speak Spanish when you are around others who do not speak Spanish. If you wish to have a private conversation, have it in private. I also see nothing wrong with him expecting his employees to use the Anglican pronunciation of their names to make them more understandable. If they do not wish to adapt to the language of the United States, perhaps they should not have come here.

    October 27, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  50. Rolando

    Whitten kept making the argument that he wanted people from all over the world, who call into his hotel, to be able to understand the names of the workers. Why does he assume that everyone from all over the world would easily understand the names he prefers? It's obvious he is trying to back track on his error.
    Furthermore, too many ignorant people assume incorrectly that if someone speaks a language other than English then they have some sort of undocumented status and cannot communicate in English. This is a huge error.

    October 27, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  51. Lue

    It sounds like this man does not trust his staff, which is a much different than a training issue. It is a sign of respect to be called by a name that belongs to you and not one your boss gives you. Perhaps he should sharpen his leadership skills?

    October 27, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  52. Michael

    Thanks Chetry for taking care of Mr. Maestas. Too many lawyers are in the world to try to complicate meaning and feelings. Thanks for shutting Maestas up.

    October 27, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  53. Tanya

    I took two yrs. of Spanish in school because I wanted to learn another language. I think that store owners, hospitals, factories etc. have every right and an obligation to demand that Spanish speaking people learn English. The reasons why they should be mandated to learn English are manifold. Chief among these reasons is the safety factor (hospitals) and national security risks. Also, i believe that the Us military should make it mandatory for our soldiers to learn as many languages as possible especially if they are going to be sent to war torn areas. They need to know how to communicate for safety reasons as well. The enemy has the advantage if our soldiers can't ascertain what is being said.

    October 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  54. Lorianne PEREZ

    I have listened to this interview and I find nothing wrong with this employer to ask his employees to speak English around him. I work in a customer service environment and we have employees who voluntarily change their name when they are answering phones to make it esier for customers who are calling to ask questions and most of the time customers want to know who they are talking to and it is easier to say Martin than it is to say Marteen. My Spanish has taught me that Marteen is Spanish for Martin, or maybe I could be wrong but that is my understanding. It is just the pronunciation not the name itself!!!!!! I shorten my name to Lori. I work with to two Lisa's and one of them is going by their middle name on the phones so there is no confusion to customers who used to get them mixed up or thought one was the other. I don't speak my husband's language so when his family is around I will politely as them to speak Englisn so I can joint the conversation. If you can speak English then you should speak English when there are others around you that do not speak Spanish or whatever the language spoken is. I am one for equality and so forth but this going too far. I bet there are people out there who would love to have their jobs and not have a problem changing the pronunciation of their name not the name itself, Ana-Anna; Roberto--Robert could just change it to Rob, what is the big deal! This is just an excuse to cause controversy and to have 15 mins of fame. There could be a compromise here if people just stop fueling the fire. I see that the reporter was annoyed at this herself and you could see her own opiniion come out of this and as a reporter your personal opinions and/or feelings are not suppose to surface. Charlou is right I bet most of them are not even here legally. I bet if they did this in their country they would be arrested, beaten, or even killed. Go figure!!!!!!!!

    October 27, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  55. Star

    Have you ever called a business or went into a business and had someone to try to help you that could not speak english it is very frustrating and I will hang up and call back until I get someone that speaks english or I will go to another place to purchase or get the help I need

    October 27, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  56. average joe

    Why is this not seen as an issue with bigger Companies like HP, Dell, IBM and other larger companies who have their employees in India adopt easy "american" names like Bill, Tom, etc so that when answering help calls the callers think they are talking to a local. Or the fact that they teach them little slang words unique to each state or topics to that state to also help them appear as if they know what is going on in that area. I think this guy is getting the hot seat for something much bigger and more powerful people / companies do and accept as everyday practice but no one yells at them.

    October 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  57. Rob

    So, does it anger you when you call a switchboard that is located in India and the person on the other line says their name is "Bob" instead of "Brahmabrata"? Well, guess what. That is their policy over there, change your name to something middle America won't freak out about when they hear. I don't see what the big deal is for someone to ask an employee to use an easy to understand name when operating the switchboard. I would caution you, that your article, and title, and overall coverage of this event seem to imply that the owner of the hotel wanted the employees to go out and legally have their names changed. Which, according to him, was not the case.

    October 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  58. Dana Phillips

    If the facts you have presented are correct, the malefactor in this story is the League of United Latin American Citizens. Mr. Whitten has attempted to rectify his apparently unintended insult, but the League is only interested in making a noise and creating more racial tension and dissension. It would appear that the League is interested in using a trumped-up racial issue as a fund raising activity.

    October 27, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  59. Leroy

    Spanish has been spoken since at least the 1600's in New Mexico .
    There was an original report that the owner didnt want spanish being spoken . Becuase he felt something was being said about him.
    This is a NATIONWIDE problem . It does not matter if it was pure Latin
    being spoken. Face it , demographics of language and culture are changing with time in the U.S.A. (not America ) because america stretches from Canada to tip of Argentina. Time changes everything
    there are those who are scared and want to cling to the old.

    October 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  60. Charlou

    I see nothing wrong with this man asking employees to speak english around him , if he does not speak spanish and the employees are talking to him how can he understand what they are saying without walking aroubnd with an interpeter all day, so would you rather they learn to speak english which by the way is the language of the United States or not hire them at all. When I visited Mexico I could not speak spanish and all they did was say not speak english and walked away, but here we are breaking our necks and going ovearboard wanting to please a group that some not all are not even here legally, so I guses all Americans have to learn to speak spanish to please you, so United States citizens need to learn every language spoke. I can't understand why is everyone so adimant about us pleasing the hispanics who some don't want to be here anyway , the only reason they are here is because they want the money to send back home , look at the money that is woired from the United States to their country. We ar letting everyone else run our country except us.

    October 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm |