So you think your name is Marcos? Well, Larry Whitten says it’s Mark at his hotel. The Whitten Inn, formerly the Paragon Inn, in downtown Taos, New Mexico, has been the center of local protests and national news. Whitten, who bought the failing hotel this July, told his Latino and Spanish-speaking employees that they needed to change their names from Martín to Martin or Maria to Mary. He said this way, guests can better pronounce their names.
"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.
After about 40 years in the hotel industry throughout the South, this Virginia-born former Marine maintains that forcing his employees to change their names to English names is pretty routine. But he says the workers at the Taos hotel were "hostile" towards his management style so he didn’t want employees chismeando around him. Those employees who resisted the name-change and English-only policy lost their jobs because of "insubordination," says Whitten. The fired employees and their families have been protesting outside of the hotel since Monday calling for Whitten to end the discriminatory practices. The League of United Latin American Citizens in New Mexico also sent a letter to Whitten raising concerns about his managing. The ReporterNews writes:
Martin Gutierrez, one of the fired employees, said he felt disrespected when he was told to use the unaccented Martin as his name. He said 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 told the AP.
Hm, this reminds me of those stories my parents told me about growing up in Arizona where they were told to speak "American" not "Mexican." Oh, how little changes in a post-racial society. Since the media attention and local protests around the policies, Whitten has apologized, but there’s no news on whether or not the employees got their jobs back or if they’re planning to sue for racial discrimination.