Hotel owner makes Latino employees change their names

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.”

Through the Gadling Lens: inspirational nature shots from our Gadling Flickr pool

As you know by now, today we’re bringing attention to climate change and ecotravel here on Gadling. Personally, climate change and taking care of the environment is an issue that I’ve thought about a whole lot since becoming a parent — and to be honest, my daughter has become pretty passionate about it herself (“Mom, you forgot to turn off your computer! You have to save the environment!” is not an uncommon admonishment from her 5-year-old mouth). While I’m not perfect, we do try to do what we can in our home to help reduce our carbon footprint, and when we travel, I’m careful to be mindful of making eco-friendly choices — still, I figure we could all do with a bit of inspiration. And so today, I thought I’d post some of the finest shots I’ve found in our Gadling Flickr pool that feature this big blue marble we call home. Because this is a seriously beautiful planet that we get to live on.

On with the show.

Anyone who has ever visited my site knows that I’m a sucker for a good flower shot, and happily, the wonderful photographers who contribute to our Flickr pool did not disappoint. Here are some of my favourites:

This beautiful photograph of Hawaiian plumeria (or what we Trinidadians call “frangipani”) was shot and shared by vyxle. What makes this shot so stunning is how clear and sharp the texture is — because of the detail of the edges and surfaces of the petals, you can imagine exactly how they would feel between your fingers. Looking at this image, I remember the flower’s smell so vividly. Awesome.

I’m pretty sure that I featured this stunning image of a Thai water lily shot and shared by RedHQ before, but I can’t help myself: the colour palette of this image is stunning. Besides, who can resist the bee in mid flight, about to land on the centre of the flower with all of his friends? Awesome.

Finally, I love the simplicity of this image taken by Emerald2810. The perspective is so unique: by shooting upward, we get the impression that the flower is reaching toward the sun; in addition, by shooting in this manner, the sunshine really highlights the translucence of the petals. Lovely.


In addition to my daughter being paranoid about me using way too much energy at home (read: spending too much time in front of the computer), she’s also become obsessed about endangered animals: how they become endangered in the first place, and what we can do to save them. She’s also become concerned about where meat comes from, and since I’m a vegetarian, she has asked me several times in the past about why I made the choice to stop eating meat. One recent day, she made the decision that she was going to be a vegetarian, too, so she could, you know, “help the environment.” “Except for hot dogs,” she said. “I’m going to keep eating hot dogs. Oh, and chicken. And bacon. Ooh, man, and sushi …”

Well, anyway. At least she turns off lights.

Here are some great shots of some of the beautiful animals that grace our Flickr pool:

The movement in this shot of snow geese taking flight by MistyDays/CB is breathtaking, isn’t it? With the entire frame filled with their flapping wings, you can almost feel the breeze caused by their movement, and the energy of them all leaving en masse. Fantastic.

And how about this stunning shot of a green lizard by Fiznatty? What makes this image so spectacular is his clever use of bokeh, or shallow depth of field: notice how the lizard’s eyes are in sharp focus, while the rest of him fades to a soft blur (if you remember, this can be achieved by setting your aperture to a low number). Beautiful.

And finally, I love this shot of “George” shared by ohad*:

This is apparently George, a blue peacock who lives in New Mexico. ohad* did a great job of capturing the curious and not-entirely-pleased expression on George’s face, to very amusing effect. Well done.


Finally, a feature celebrating nature and all its beauty wouldn’t be complete without some of the stunning scenery shots captured by the photographers who share their work with Gadling.

This amazing image was captured by the very talented Buck Forester, whose work I’ve featured here before. The blues of the water, mirroring the blues of the sky are truly breathtaking, and a great reminder to be mindful of the colour palette available to you as you look through the viewfinder, checking for complementary colours, and framing the shot to maximize accordingly.

I will admit upfront that I’m drawn to this image shared by Andy Bokanev because I’ve actually stood in this very spot on Cannon Beach in Oregon. What I love about it is how unusual the image is, however: rather than the typical-white-sand-blue-sky type of shot, this image focuses on the moodiness of the sky, the clarity of the beachwater, and the austerity of Haystack rock. A great reminder to look for alternative perspectives when shooting.

I’m also drawn to scenery shots which capture movement caused by nature, and this shot of the Reynisdrangar (or basalt sea stacks, as I’ve come to learn) captured by t3mujin, totally fits the bill. I love how the mist (sea spray?) swirls around the gigantic rock formation, adding movement to the entire image. Breathtaking.

And finally, because I’m a sucker for a good aurora borealis, I love this shot by, again, fiznatty

This was captured over a bathhouse in Sweden, and the result is amazing. Personally, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to capture a shot like this; however, happily, fiznatty shares some of his secrets in capturing the aurora in the comments of this image. It is one of my life dreams to see the northern lights, so if I ever make it far enough north, I’ll definitely keep these tips in my back pocket.

So! If these images don’t inspire you to take care of the Earth (or at least capture some amazing images of it), then I don’t know what will. As always, if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

How green is your hotel?

Not too long ago, any hotel that had one of those “please reuse your towels” signs in the bathroom was considered “green“. But with new hotels upping the ante by adding more features that reduce waste and environmental impact, it takes a lot more than that to truly be green. Here are some of the greenest hotel features to look for in an eco-friendly hotel.

Sheet and Towel Reuse Programs
Literally, this is the least a hotel can do. Asking guests to reuse towels and only changing the linens every few days or between guests no doubt saves water (and money for the hotel) but those positive contributions can easily be negated through other actions. If this all the hotel does, it might just be more frugal than green.

Bulk Toiletry Dispensers
Every time you check into a hotel, you’re provided with small bottles of face wash, body wash, lotion, shampoo and conditioner. Even if you’ve only used a minuscule drop, those bottles are tossed out and restocked at the end of your stay. This happens every day, for every room sold, at hotels all around the world. That’s a lot of tiny bottles clogging up landfills. The greener option being implemented in many hotels is to install bulk dispensers (similar to soap dispensers in public restrooms) that dole out small amounts of shampoo, soap and lotion without the extra packaging.

Local and Organic Cooking
Hotel restaurant chefs that use local, fair-trade, sustainable and organic ingredients get a gold-star for for being green. Using local products means that the food travels less to get to the consumer, which in turn means less energy is used and less emissions are added to the air from the planes, trains and trucks that transport food. Organic ingredients are created without the chemicals and pesticides that can harm the surrounding eco-systems, fair-trade products support local farmers, and sustainable foodstuffs are made in a way that doesn’t deplete the natural resources of the area. Hotels that employ these practices in their restaurants are doing something that is not only healthy for their guests, but is healthy for the community and environment as well. The hotel gets even more bonus points if some or all of the produce comes from the hotel’s own garden.

Green Lighting Practices
Replacing fluorescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) means that a hotel will use 75% less energy per year. While hotel guests can do their part by turning off all unnecessary lights when not in the room, some hotels, like the LEED-certified Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco, make this easier by requiring the lights to be activated by key card. The key card, usually attached to the hotel key, must be inserted into a slot in order to turn the lights on. Since you’ll obviously need to take the key and lighting key card with you when you leave the room, there’s no way you can leave the lights on while you’re out.

Green Building Materials
The buildings at Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge in Alaska are constructed from scavenged driftwood, the mattresses and bedding at the Asheville Green Cottage in South Carolina are made from all organic materials, and the walls at Los Manos B&B in Colorado are built of local adobe and the ceilings are insulated with cellulose from old newspapers. All of these properties are using green building practices that help conserve precious resources. Using recycled, organic, scavenged and eco-friendly (like low-emission paints) materials in the building process makes a hotel green from the very beginning.

Reducing Water Usage
The El Monte Sagrado in Taos, New Mexico filters its wastewater into pure drinking water, but there are plenty of other ways hotels can save water that are a littler easier to do. Many green hotels install low-flow regulators in showers and toilet tanks, and some even put in automatic-timer showers that shut off after a certain number of minutes. (You can restart them with the push of a button, but the ticking clock serves as a powerful reminder to make it quick). Hotels in temperate areas have chosen to do their landscaping with tropical plants, which require less water to maintain.

Alternative Power
Many hotels are looking to alternative sources of power; the Alpine House in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, gets all of its power from wind turbines. Look for hotels that boast the use of solar and wind power for even part of their energy usage. Hotels that use shade trees and crosswinds to cool rooms, rather than air conditioning, also increase their eco-friendly factor.

Recycling Programs
All the paper used in the Hotel Triton in San Francisco, from napkins in the restaurant to stationary in the guest rooms, is made from recycled materials. Of course, after it’s used, it still gets tossed out. I’ve never seen a recycling bin in any hotel I’ve stayed in, and I highly doubt that housekeeping takes the time to separate recyclables from trash. As a result, plenty of paper, aluminum and plastic that could be recycled ends up getting tossed. Any hotel that offers recycling bins in the room is one step up on the green ladder.

Green Cleaning Products
Using non-toxic, all-natural cleaning products helps reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals that get into the water system and cause pollution. Look for hotels like Denver’s Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast which uses only baking soda to its clean tubs, sinks and toilets.

Other Green Practices
When combined with some of these larger-scale practices, the smallest acts can help make a green hotel even more eco-friendly. All Fairmont hotels offer free parking for hybrid cars, the Vancouver Hilton offers an alternative fueling station, and many hotels will provide free bikes for guests to get around on. Stocking guest rooms with glass drinking cups instead of plastic and relying on natural lighting as much as possible in public areas are two additional practices that make a big difference.

I doubt there’s any hotel that employs every single one of these practices. But it’s a safe bet to say that the more of these strategies a hotel uses, the greener it is. No hotel will have zero impact on the environment, but choosing a hotel that take does its best to use environmentally-friendly policies will help make your travels greener.

Photo of the Day (7.26.09)

Neon reminds me of roadtrips. The open road. A solitary roadside motel with a glowing neon sign, welcoming weary travelers like a beacon on a lighthouse. When I saw this neon photo by dizzylizzie129, taken in Taos, New Mexico, it had me immediately thinking about the open road. Aside from the warm glow of the blue and yellow light, I quite like this electric cowboy’s goofy grin – it has a real personality to it. I could easily imagine an encounter with this sign out on some lonely road, late at night.

Have any great travel shots you’d love to share? Why not upload them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Instead of Utah as a ski destination, head to New Mexico

Let’s say you’re interested in boycotting Utah but you really want to ski at an affordable destination. Consider New Mexico. The mountains are steep and become packed with powder; the sky is blue; and skiing is near places worth heading to whether you ski or not.

Consider this: Santa Fe and Taos

I’m not saying that Utah isn’t a lovely state–It’s gorgeous–breathtaking even. Then there’s David Archuleta who is cute as a button. He’s from Utah. So are the Osmonds. But let’s say you want to boycott the state because it’s been suggested as an appropriate response as of late. (See Meg’s post.)

If you do think about heading to New Mexico for a ski vacation, here are details to tip your decision-making in New Mexico’s favor.

  • Lift tickets are $6 cheaper at Santa Fe’s resort than at Utah’s Alta.
  • Lift lines in New Mexico, in my experience, are not particularly long.
  • If you ski in Santa Fe, head to the Japanese onsen-like Ten Thousand Waves for a glorious soak in a private outdoor hot tub. Some tubs are located in the midst of trees that glisten in the snow and moonlight. This is a perfect stop after a day of swooshing down a mountain over and over again.
  • Santa Fe is a place to shop like no other. Friends of mine– who never shop, said they’ve never been to a place that has given them the urge to buy things more than here. Canyon Road is filled with galleries and stores that are the definition of eye candy.
  • The best folk art museum in the world is in Santa Fe. Head to the International Folk Art Museum for a visual treat and a reminder of all the markets you passed through in your world travels. You’ll possibly be reminded of that item you didn’t buy, that very thing that is in the display case in front of you–specifically an odd painted piece of pottery that is shaped like a chicken–kind of. It’s from Senegal to be exact.
  • A meal at Cafe Pasqual is fit for a weekend that’s meant to be special. This is fine dining with an organic, Old Mexican, New Mexican and Asian twist. I can’t remember what I ate specifically, but I was on a date with a guy who wanted to impress. He did. Fine dining doesn’t mean you need to get all gussied up either.

If you head to Taos, you can stop at Taos Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited Native American town that is both an National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site.