Taos Hotelier Bans Spanish, Spanish Names, Hispanics

Hotelier Larry Whitten is getting roasted over the policies he put in place at his newest hotel acquisition in Taos, NM. He bought the weathered adobe-style Paragon Inn hotel over the summer and made plans to renovate and reopen, as he has with some 20 other properties around the country. It was business as usual until he made the decree banning the Spanish language from the hotel, since he doesn’t speak Spanish. He also requested that his Hispanic employees go by “anglicized” first names, then allegedly gave some of them the boot for noncompliance. These new policies did not go over so well in the liberal town of Taos, which has long celebrated the Spanish language and culture. Whitten is now being accused with discrimination in the workplace and racism by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Whitten claims that he is just trying to accommodate his out-of-town guests who most likely do not speak the language or understand Spanish names, and that he’s no racist. The city of Taos, however, feels differently, and sent out a press release immediately after the skirmish hit the media.

“Mr. Whitten’s employment practices are not indicative of the way visitors are treated or the business practices of our hospitality community in Taos,” explained Jamie Tedesco, President of the Taos Tourism Council, a non-profit organization of Taos businesses that promote tourism in the area. “Taos has welcomed visitors from all over the world — and has been a destination within the U.S. for centuries. Our community is truly tri-cultural, with the majority being Hispanic and the balance a split between Native American and Anglo.”

“As I said when this story first broke, I do not condone nor support any business practice that would require a person to change his or her name because of race, background or ethnicity as a condition of employment. Furthermore I also stated that I do not condone nor support any business practice that would violate anyone’s freedom of speech,” echoed Taos Mayor Darren Cordova.

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