Taos, New Mexico, is home to a large Spanish-speaking population. There are a lot of Latino people living and working in the town. So it follows that many people there have traditionally Latino names. You would think a guy from Texas (another state close to Mexico and home to many Hispanic people) would understand that. But not Larry Whitten.
When Whitten came into town to take over as the manager of a run-down hotel, he told his Latino staff that they needed to change their names to more Anglicized versions. As CBS News puts it, “No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain old Martin. No more Marcos, now it would be Mark.” Of course, the staff and many of the town’s residents were not happy. Nor were they pleased when Whitten fired several Hispanic employees and forbade those remaining from speaking any language but English around him, because he feared they were talking about him in Spanish.
After referring to the locals as “mountain folk” in an interview and then being picketed by fired employees and their families, Whitten later apologized for the “misunderstanding” and said he was not against any culture.
Whitten denied that his actions were racist and said that he asked the staff to change their names for the “satisfaction” of guests who may not be familiar with Spanish names. One fired employee disagreed. “I don’t have to change my name and language or heritage,” he said. “I am professional the way I am.”