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.”
In most Hispanic countries, the day the Three Wise Men visited Jesus (Epiphany) holds more significance than Christmas Day. On the night of January 5, children write to their favorite king (rather than to Santa) for what they want and leave their shoes outside, filled with straw for the Wise Men’s camels to eat; today is when they open their gifts.
Yesterday evening, the streets of Madrid’s center were packed with people waiting excitedly from 2pm to see the Parade of the Kings that began around 6pm. Today as families spend time together, there is a tradition of eating “Roscon of the Kings” which is a large loaf of bread in the shape of a king’s crown, coated with nuts and dried-fruit and filled with cream or chocolate. A gold coin is hidden inside, and it is believed that the person who gets it will have good luck throughout the year.
To reassert the importance of this day over December 25, recently in Madrid there was an anti-Santa campaign to spotlight the existing capitalism around the concept of Father Christmas. It highlighted his unacceptable behavior that included: doping his reindeer, racism, exploiting his elves, relations with the Romanian mafia and general susceptibility to commercialization. There was a demonstration outside the Finnish Embassy demanding the closure of Santa’s toy factory — a cause of contamination in the Scandinavian country.
Based in Madrid, a website has been created for the cause that includes an anti-Santa pro-Kings rap by campaigners dressed as the Three Kings which you can see here; it ends with a stage killing of Santa Claus.