No way, José.
October 26, 2009 2:46 PM   Subscribe

With a background of turning around distressed hotels, Larry Whitten this past July bought the 'Paragon Hotel,' a "run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel" in Taos, NM with the intent of ressurecting it [now called the 'Whitten Inn']. "The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules for the staff. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers...from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names. No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark." This "liberal enclave of 5,000 residents...where Spanish language, culture and traditions have a long and revered history" didn't take well to his management approach. Local protests ensued [video | 09:35].

"The messages and comments he made in interviews with local media, including referring to townsfolk as 'mountain people' and 'potheads who escaped society,' [have] further enflamed tensions." *

Larry Whitten interviewed on CNN [video | 05:45].
posted by ericb (108 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In this instance there are no connections to viral online advertising campaigns for ski areas in Taos, NM.
posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah... Taos and Metafilter aren't exactly best buds at the moment... or ever.
posted by PenDevil at 2:56 PM on October 26, 2009


I hope his advertising says "Located in the beautiful Blood of Christ Mountains!" rather than "Sangre de Cristo."
posted by ALongDecember at 2:57 PM on October 26, 2009 [18 favorites]


"I've turned down 20 hotels using these same procedures."

Yes, I'm sure the Mexicans name thing was why they were failing previously.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, Spanish pronunciation, more properly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:02 PM on October 26, 2009


Larry Whitten re-sized my browser.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


more like whiten inn amirite
posted by jedicus at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


"In MY hotel they gonna speak AMERICAN ENGLISH just like Jesus and my Granddaddy did. Semper Fi!"
posted by four panels at 3:07 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


¡Christo, qué recto!
posted by Kattullus at 3:10 PM on October 26, 2009 [58 favorites]


Maybe he's banking on becoming a cause celebre among conservative activists. Come to beautiful Taos, NM, where you can experience the rich cultural heritage of a diverse set of people and stare them down while clutching your ar-15.
posted by stavrogin at 3:17 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


What kind of idiot decides to open an establishment that hires Hispanic workers in New Mexico, or really any southern border state, without a basic grasp of Español? Creepy ideology aside, it's just poor business sense.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:21 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


[Whitten said] "I've been working 24 years in Texas and we have a lot of Spanish people there."

Yeah, and most of them probably sneaked over here illegally from Barcelona—the filthy, border-jumping Catalans!
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:23 PM on October 26, 2009 [30 favorites]


Main site: Whitten Inn
posted by zarq at 3:23 PM on October 26, 2009


Taos, New Mexico is not a large community, one with a lot of Spanish road names, and the all-knowing Fodor's Sights Review calls the locals Taoseños. That's an Ñ, not an N with a hairpiece.

In other words, trying to re-name everyone now is a wee bit late in the process.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:23 PM on October 26, 2009


Larry Whitten re-sized my browser.

Oops. I've e-mailed the mods at "contact" to request that they edit different hyperlinks (which I have provided) to obviate the resizing.
posted by ericb at 3:23 PM on October 26, 2009


¡Christo, qué recto!

Jesús, what an asshole.
posted by felix betachat at 3:25 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Has cultural chauvinism been a big part of his other "turnaround" ventures, I wonder? That is, has he actually made a profit from it in the past? His employees must be torn between hope that this guy who trampled their names and language fails and fear of losing their jobs.
posted by bearwife at 3:29 PM on October 26, 2009


I'm not sure if he's on speaking terms with English, either, to judge by the offer of a "Concerige (sic) Package." Bonus: the URL I linked goes to "ammenities.html"

Also check out the Whitten Inn webmail log in page, where you can choose from dozens of languages, including the dreaded Español.
posted by jedicus at 3:34 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


About the Spanish/Mexican difference. Spanish people are your friends. Mexicans are the people you see on the news.

Also, the word you're looking for is "culero"

posted by lysdexic at 3:36 PM on October 26, 2009


Changing other people's names for them is a time honored tradition, just ask Kunta Kinte... I mean Toby.
posted by yeloson at 3:37 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Main site: Whitten Inn

"Sleep with Whitten, purr like a kitten"
How tempting!
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:38 PM on October 26, 2009


I don't see anything wrong with what he's doing. If he bought an establishment, and he told employees the rules of his own hotel-- it's his business and he can run it as he sees fits.
It's right up there with:
- Wear your uniform
- Speak nicely to the guests
- etc.etc.

If the employees don't like it, they can quit and go somewhere else.

There might be moral objections, but Whitten's top priority is running his business, not catering to the likes and dislikes of his employees and neighbors.

(Whether this is a good business decision or not, that's another issue-- I think there were better way to do what he is doing.... much like the catch-line: "Sleep with Whitten, purr like a kitten". wtf?!)
posted by countzen at 3:48 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm. If I were a Spanish-speaking guest who spoke no English and I asked a question of a Spanish-speaking staff member in Whitten's presence, would the staff member be obliged to be unhelpful to me?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:53 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


gets popcorn...
posted by fixedgear at 3:53 PM on October 26, 2009


DO YOU LIKE SOME MAKING SLEEP
BERZERKER!
posted by zippy at 3:55 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't see anything wrong with what he's doing. If he bought an establishment, and he told employees the rules of his own hotel-- it's his business and he can run it as he sees fits.

It's one thing to ask them speak English for the sake of employees - I know it can be rude to speak a foreign language around someone who doesn't understand it - but to ask them to change their names shows this isn't some courtesy/business issue. That is not a "like or dislike", it's one's legal name and only they can decide if they want to go by something else.
posted by Partario at 3:56 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's one thing to ask them speak English for the sake of employees - I know it can be rude to speak a foreign language around someone who doesn't understand it - but to ask them to change their names shows this isn't some courtesy/business issue. That is not a "like or dislike", it's one's legal name and only they can decide if they want to go by something else.

That's up for debate, I think. How do you feel about outsourced (Indian) CSRs with names like 'Susan', 'Bob,' 'Chris', or 'James'? The reason they use those names, the same reason Mr. Whitten stated in his interview, is that the names are hard to pronounce. I still have to think for a sec. when I talk to people names Jesus. (I hope you get that. )

I mean he's not telling them to change their names legally, to go to court and files papers and stuff.

I would say the better method would have been to tell the employees to use their best discretion depending on guests, but then again, it's his business.
posted by countzen at 4:04 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


In New Mexico? Really? Had he never been to the state? It's the one place in the US with a long-standing, entrenched Spanish speaking population. Many of whom will go through great pains to explain they are not Mexican, but rather 8th generation New Mexicans with an untainted Castillian heritage. Which is weird in its own right, of course. Main point being; Spanish-speaking culture is endemic to New Mexico, not imported, and it's absolutely insane to act otherwise.

I don't see anything wrong with what he's doing

Well then you're willfully obtuse. But let me explain one thing that's wrong that an anarchocapitalist might understand: the local customers won't put up with that shit. Employees may or may not be able to quit and go elsewhere, but I can assure you there are plenty of other hotels in Taos.
posted by Nelson at 4:06 PM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh man, that would tick me off. My pa often Anglicizes his first name for fellow Texans, and I let it slide if people tend to pronounce my name wrong. But doing it yourself is different from being asked by an employer. I can't imagine being denied speaking Spanish, but it definitely hearkens back to a more racist time.

I would tend agree with Juanito Burns Jr. He's just plain ignorant about what he's doing. Racism through ignorance rather than outright hatred. I'd add that he's also doing what he thinks is best for his business. Not that this excuses his choices... but from the MSNBC article "He said he was sorry for the misunderstanding and insisted he has never been against any culture." I'm willing to accept this as truth from my own experience growing up around Texans. I'd a white friend back home who was pretty oblivious to what it meant to strongly identify with one's ethnic/cultural background. It just didn't grok for him. You want to say, "come on, can't you see the people around you? We're not all white. Don't be left behind, come with us, work with us."
posted by Mister Cheese at 4:08 PM on October 26, 2009


Well then you're willfully obtuse. But let me explain one thing that's wrong that an anarchocapitalist might understand: the local customers won't put up with that shit. Employees may or may not be able to quit and go elsewhere, but I can assure you there are plenty of other hotels in Taos.

I already stated that this might not be smartest business decision. Please read the comments before being rude and offensive.

I am only saying I don't see anything wrong in the sense of legality, as a business owner.
posted by countzen at 4:10 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yup, sure is hard to say Marco. And Martìn? Just by saying the name out loud, I was mugged and my women folk were stolen!
posted by Brocktoon at 4:19 PM on October 26, 2009


I am only saying I don't see anything wrong in the sense of legality, as a business owner.

Okay, it may not be legally wrong but it's wrong in so many other ways. And the one recorded instance in which he asked someone to change his name is far different from that of an Indian CSR going by "Susan" or "Jill". The man's name is Martin, and whether one wants to use the English or Spanish pronunciation, it's spelled the same. I doubt he asked for the change after watching countless customers stare blankly at Martin's nametag. This man is just hiding his racism behind claims of "better business practices".
posted by Partario at 4:20 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am only saying I don't see anything wrong in the sense of legality

But that's hardly the point (and no one here is arguing the legalities of it). There are a lot of things a business owner can do that are legal...and still stupid and damaging to one's business. This guy? He wins at that.
posted by rtha at 4:22 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am only saying I don't see anything wrong in the sense of legality, as a business owner.

Employers can dictate what languages employees speak to each other for non-work purposes?
posted by GuyZero at 4:23 PM on October 26, 2009


That's up for debate, I think. How do you feel about outsourced (Indian) CSRs with names like 'Susan', 'Bob,' 'Chris', or 'James'? The reason they use those names, the same reason Mr. Whitten stated in his interview, is that the names are hard to pronounce. I still have to think for a sec. when I talk to people names Jesus. (I hope you get that. )

Respectfully, anyone who thinks Mexican names are hard to pronounce isn't trying at ALL. Spanish is one of the easiest languages to bluff your way through because it's super logical and most all of the sounds in Spanish are already in use in English.

Mar-TEEN
HOR-hay
LOO-eice
HAY-soose

Words in other languages are pronounced differently. You don't meet a french dude and call him Jackwheeze, you give a French pronunciation your best shot and learn over time. You don't just tell someone they have to mispronounce their own name. That's... stupid.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:25 PM on October 26, 2009


I don't see anything wrong with what he's doing. If he bought an establishment, and he told employees the rules of his own hotel-- it's his business and he can run it as he sees fits.

Well, to begin with, there are all sorts of things you can't do even if it is your business. You can't tell women they have to sleep with you. You can't refuse to hire somebody because they are black.

Telling people to change the pronunciation of their name might be a legal gray area, but it's not an ethical one. It's an expression of disrespect for your employee's heritage -- and explicitly their Hispanic heritage, because we have yet to hear about him changes any non-Hispanic's name, including his own last name, which is old English and therefore not comprehensible to people who speak modern English. For clarity's sake, when using the phone, he should be calling himself Larry the Dweller at Hwita's Farm or Homestead. Come to think of it, Hwita's a name that's not in common usage, so he'd have to update that too.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:27 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hah, that CNN video "Let me just jump in, my name is Jane Velez-Mitchell -- I hope you don't mind if I keep using the word Velez in my name..."

I don't think I've ever seen her get riled up at anything before so that was just delightful.
posted by boo_radley at 4:27 PM on October 26, 2009


Also, his use of "them", "they" and "these people" really left a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:28 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did I mishera or did he repeatedly call the callboard operator a "boy" and a "good boy"?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:32 PM on October 26, 2009


I know one thing: that Whitten Inn signage is horrible. Green on black, italic--what, Times New Roman? Ugh. And the sleeping cat and stupid slogan don't help, either.
posted by zardoz at 4:45 PM on October 26, 2009


Oh, inappropriate quotation mark use, will you ever cease being funny? From the Whitten Inn about us page:
Whitten Inn’s are operated by professional hotel people who believe whole heartedly that the guests are always “Right.”
[...]
Whitten Inns do not want our guests just to be satisfied, we want them to walk away being a “Raving Fan.”
posted by Kattullus at 4:52 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see anything wrong with what he's doing. If he bought an establishment, and he told employees the rules of his own hotel-- it's his business and he can run it as he sees fits.

Nope. Not true now, not true ever.

He can run his hotel as he sees fit within the confines of the law.

No matter how fit he sees it, he can't operate his hotel as a brothel, or snuff-porn studio, or terrorist training camp.

No matter how fit he sees it, he can't require the employees to have sex with him.

No matter how fit he sees it, he can't pay the employees less than the minimum wage required by state and federal law.

No matter how fit he sees it, he can't run his hotel with a strict DECENT WHITE PEOPLE ONLY policy.

I am very fucking far from a lawyer, but in the course of required training because I theoretically had underlings, it was clear that requiring employees to speak English in their conversations between themselves was a strict no-no.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:54 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


[Whitten said] "I've been working 24 years in Texas and we have a lot of Spanish people there."

I would like to call attention to a very strange phenomenon that is coming out in his use of the word "Spanish" in place of "Mexican" in this situation.

In Texas (where I grew up), if you are amongst the majority of people, the term Mexican very often has a derogative connotation. Hence, when trying to sound all growed up and impartial, you will often hear the people of West Texas call Mexican people Spanish.

It took me a long time of living outside of Texas to get over this, although I finally intellectualized at about age 17 that calling someone Mexican was not actually worse than calling someone French (okay, bad example in this case...love how Whitten used that too: "They can speak German...or...or Frainch...").

I still think about this almost every time I hear the word Mexican, and I've never told Metafilter about it, so...there you go.
posted by nosila at 5:00 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


An example of how deep racial and cultural roots (and resentments) run in New Mexico:

A statue of the Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate was erected near Española, a city between Santa Fe and Taos, in 1991. Seven years later someone sawed off its right foot.

Why? Because Oñate had punished a native uprising at Acoma Pueblo by killing 800 people, selling the surviving women and children into slavery, and cutting off one foot from every surviving man. In 1599.
posted by gottabefunky at 5:03 PM on October 26, 2009 [19 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I stayed in this hotel for a few nights during a high school band trip some 15 years ago. Looks the same from the photos, at least.
posted by jal0021 at 5:49 PM on October 26, 2009


He might have some extra trouble with any employee named Jesus; you know, like Levon's kid...
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 6:11 PM on October 26, 2009


That is by far the ugliest Best Western I've ever seen.
posted by Bageena at 6:38 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


He was a little child once and he would run through the sprinkler with his friends in the summer and stay in a tent in the backyard on a friday night till someone would hear something and they'd get scared and lug their sleeping bags back inside the house, well after midnight.

He had his first cigarette and smoked it without coughing while his buddies turned green from their's. Washed his hair back in the middle of that lake and listened to her laugh at something he'd said.

When did his heart turn to rock? Did it happen all at once or gradually over time like so much fiery felsic?


It's just all so pointless and cruel.
posted by nola at 6:39 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


No, people we don't like were never cute little kids. They just kind of appear from the ether as fully formed targets of derision. Didn't you go to college (or at least walk around intoxicated on or nearby a campus)?
posted by Burhanistan at 6:44 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I am only saying I don't see anything wrong in the sense of legality, as a business owner."

Yeah, workers don't need their dignity. They need to work!
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 6:46 PM on October 26, 2009


Didn't you go to college (or at least walk around intoxicated on or nearby a campus)?

Only the latter I'm afraid.
posted by nola at 6:47 PM on October 26, 2009


Only the latter I'm afraid.

Well, that's like 59% of it. A few Wikipedia articles on logic, ethics, and some obscure historical events and you can consider yourself a BA in humanities.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:51 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


he forbade the Hispanic workers...from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him)

may i be the first to offer congratulations on a well-thought-out and no doubt completely-effective strategy for preventing your employees from talking about you a genius sir genius
posted by DU at 6:53 PM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


he forbade the Hispanic workers...from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him)

Why has it never occurred to him that a much better way to reduce this would be by being much less of an arsehole?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:57 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Or he could learn Spanish. You know grow as a person and resolve that pesky paranoia problem. Two birds with one stone you might say.
posted by nola at 7:06 PM on October 26, 2009


Yeah but once they start seein that I'm reading their thought-words in spanish then there just gonna learn the chinese and talk about me then thats why you gotta nip 'em before they turn inna chinamen or at least thats what ma grandpappy said.
posted by Avenger at 7:12 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is he going to demand that they call it [Tay-Ohs], now?
posted by Clay201 at 7:14 PM on October 26, 2009


YA!!!... Que se cree este hijo de puta!
posted by CRESTA at 7:21 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Telling people to change the pronunciation of their name might be a legal gray area, but it's not an ethical one. It's an expression of disrespect for your employee's heritage

I live here, and that's true, very much so here. The history here goes back over 400 years. The people he's belittling are hosts to him, not the other way around. He didn't get it. So, he got ran out of town. I can't find one person here who defends him. We're all ready for him to get going. Yeah, Whitten is right about one thing, we're a bunch of misfits, but we don't take kindly to his type, and this bunch of misfits is the whole community he's talking about. If you bulldoze your way in, make some really dumb mistakes revealing you don't understand the culture and don't care to try to learn, though you were openly and repeatedly given many opportunities to mend the rifts you created, you deserve all the scorn you get. When in Rome ... but he didn't even try, you know? He was a thorough asshole at every single opportunity.

And here in Taos, we have a deserved reputation for being a difficult place to live if you don't have any respect for the locals (e.g., traditional latino families who have lived here long before it was a state, not Mexican-American immigrants), because they've been here for four centuries, own most of the land (worth a fortune now), run the local agriculture and run the town and county. There are problems with corruption here, and sometimes it seems like if you have the right name you get a get out of jail free card and cushy government jobs, but that's how it is in a lot of places. What we don't have a problem with here is keeping people like Whitten from getting too comfortable.

Also, I had nothing to do with any viral marketing for the Taos Ski Valley, though I did hear something about the campaign, and I didn't catch it when it came up here in time to let people know what it was. I do ski there. I do work for the ISP which hosts their site, but we just host 'em, we don't really get into the marketing stuff they're doing.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:57 PM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't see anything wrong with what he's doing. If he bought an establishment, and he told employees the rules of his own hotel-- it's his business and he can run it as he sees fits.

He can do what he wishes. It doesn't mean we won't tell him how we feel about his ignorant ass taking up space here.

Besides, this is a tourist town and depends on that money, and he isn't helping. We don't need him making a bad name for us. We can do that just fine on our own, thanks.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:04 PM on October 26, 2009


What about the English names that Indian telephone support operators adopt? Is that not an attempt to gain business?
Still I think Marteen and Martin is going a bit far because they sound practically the same.
posted by niccolo at 8:04 PM on October 26, 2009


i have lived in new mexico the last 35 years. when i came here i found it necessary to learn spanish to expand my circle of friends past the few gringos that i knew. as living conditions in other parts of the country become intolerable and over priced, more asshats move here. once here they start bitching about spanish names for sports teams, schools, road signs, etc. there have been scores of complaints in the newspapers about the smell of roasting chile, and the diversion of road traffic to film movie scenes. now that new orleans is fucked, new mexico remains about the only place in the states that has regional and cultural differences from the rest of the country. until recently, no one ever came to new mexico to make money. there wasn't any, and we were better off without it.
posted by kitchenrat at 8:06 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about the English names that Indian telephone support operators adopt? Is that not an attempt to gain business?

In this case, Whitten moved here, to a very old community of Latin and Native Americans, and some much more recent Anglos and mixed. He did not grasp that he was the guest here. At first, when you move somewhere, you are the guest, particularly in a small town. You come in respectfully, not like you own the place. Taos is 5000 people, greater metro is 20,000. You can't do shit like that here without people reacting in a completely hostile - and understandable - way. Don't come to my house and tell me what my name is, is the problem. He bought a hotel, but he didn't buy himself any friends or any respect. What little he had of that has been spent, and he's not wanted here by anyone I've met, Latin, Pueblo, or otherwise, and I meet a lot of people here in my job.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:18 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


kitchenrat

I just finished Roberto Bolaño's 2666. Among the many things I took away from its reading one would be the scope of the Latin American people's anonymity. I've been waking up to this over the last few years I hope other North Americans can start to really see their neighbors to the south. Understand the history and as you say so well, The history here goes back over 400 years. The people he's belittling are hosts to him, not the other way around.
posted by nola at 8:24 PM on October 26, 2009


My problem with using "Mexicans", even here in Texas, is that lots of time we're generalizing for "immigrants from Central and South America". But "Spanish" is certainly the wrong word as well. If we're talking strictly about people from Mexico then "Mexican" is appropriate, but otherwise a more appropriate term would be Hispanic or Latino.
posted by muddgirl at 8:25 PM on October 26, 2009


as living conditions in other parts of the country become intolerable and over priced, more asshats move here.

Oh, he's not one of them. He's just another lame businessman from Redneck Stereotype, The South, who didn't bother to learn much about the place he was investing in and moving to. Happens all the time here, because this is a pretty groovy little spot that attracts a lot of tourists, and some very wealthy circles live here (though they pretty much keep to their rich selves). This place is difficult for people like him, because he's not here to live or to integrate into the community, just here to make some money, and he doesn't know we've seen him come and go many times over the years. He'll probably end up in Red River, which is just up the road and is something like 98% Texan. He'll fit in great there.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:26 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought it was "people with Latinismo".
posted by everichon at 8:31 PM on October 26, 2009


And nothing against Texas, but Red River is like a Kincaide painting, including all the overdone politeness covering undertones of strict Baptist living. I actually like it there, because the people are just so dang friendly! Just that, you know, unless you go to their church, that's a very difficult place to live, but it's always nice to visit. It's tiny. From Wikipedia: "The population was 484 at the 2000 census." Try doing anything there without the whole town knowing. But if you're a really conservative, Texan Baptist and love the mountains, that's the place to be.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:31 PM on October 26, 2009


overdone politeness covering undertones of strict Baptist living.

As an aside, you know that religious people try to be polite because they feel it's part of their religion to treat people with kindness even if inwardly they have disagreements with? That's better than simply voicing dislike. I see this mistaken idea mentioned here from time to time in some form, and the implication is that religious people are just being nice as a ploy to cover up their religious convictions rather than the politeness being an external expression of them.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:38 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


he forbade the Hispanic workers...from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him)

Oday ouyay inkthay ehay orbidsfay igpay atinlay?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


nola,

kitchenrat

I think you were replying to me? That was me you quoted.

Anyway, yeah, even Richard Bradford's Red Sky At Morning is worth reading for any newcomer here and is pretty accessible. Haven't read Roberto Bolaño. Thanks for the tip on that.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:45 PM on October 26, 2009


Hey, would the Spanish speakers here care to a) translate some of the Spanish curses in the thread and b) provide some extras with translation? Because guys like this really make me want to curse in Spanish. And because our Spanish teachers here in Baptist land wouldn't teach us any good curses :(
posted by emjaybee at 8:47 PM on October 26, 2009


As an aside, you know that religious people try to be polite because they feel it's part of their religion to treat people with kindness even if inwardly they have disagreements with? That's better than simply voicing dislike

No, I totally get it. It's just that you are made to feel so welcome, so liked. And then you start talking, and they're so friendly! and won't you come to our service this Sunday, and, oh, you're not Christian? and you suddenly run out of things to talk about ...

Or, well, put it this way. Taos is fairly liberal, and the two towns sort of have a love-hate relationship. I know they just love seeing me when I come visit to fix their network problems! And I'm genuinely happy to see them, not at all kidding about that, because they are really friendly, and it's refreshing, and nobody is faking anything. And things are great, on that level. But when I leave, because I'm from Taos, I either disappear from their sphere or they talk derisively in private about people from Taos, in a general sense, damn hippies, commies, etc. I know this, because I don't dress like a freak and have pretty short hair, and sometimes they talk to me about the people in Taos because think I might be one of them. But this is all pretty silly anyway, and we all get along pretty well, just that I know that their politeness ends at a certain place, and we're all good with it.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:54 PM on October 26, 2009


larry needs to get himself an AMERICAN name, not some norman frenchified latin name like larry, short for lawrence

what a fucking ignorant to the point of being witlessly hypocritical moron
posted by pyramid termite at 8:59 PM on October 26, 2009


Sorry krinklyfig my mistake.
posted by nola at 9:18 PM on October 26, 2009


I just finished Roberto Bolaño's 2666. Among the many things I took away from its reading one would be the scope of the Latin American people's anonymity. I've been waking up to this over the last few years I hope other North Americans can start to really see their neighbors to the south.

I think it's inevitable, because Latin populations in the US are growing so rapidly. As others have mentioned, growing up in NM definitely does give you a different perspective, because Latin people here are not at all anonymous, not in the history books, the government nor among the highest salaries. Whitten's real ignorance was his assuming people who travel here want the culture whitewashed. It's really never been like that in Taos especially, stubbornly holding on to old traditions, which is one of the main reasons we attract so many tourists. If he had any sense as a businessman, he'd realize the culture is a major reason people come here, and he'd emphasize and capitalize on it rather than try to suppress it.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:41 PM on October 26, 2009


Are you joking CRESTA? Sincerely, it's really hard to tell since MetaFilter comments usually are not written in such a frantic manner.

If you aren't joking, feel free to contact the moderators.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:42 PM on October 26, 2009


Nola:..... You'll be shouting when you see that when you speak you are shut out, then you start shouting.... Nola,.... Who is controlling MEFI???... I did pay to mefi what they asked me to be able to put my comments here, years ago, and I have being bolted in the past more than once.... I do understand this comments are just stupid notes that probabilities of 0.0000001 members of the internet community will read at one time. That is why I do seldom make any comments.... This time the ignorance of somebody that may have more than one skeleton in the closets, and don't even realize that he lives in a community that the name of the town is SPANISH, and the state where is located is also Spanish.... TEXAS, by the way comes from the SPANISH word TEXAS and New MEXICO, comes from the Spanish word MEJICO.... I can continue....... May be not.... And I can do this in FIVE (5) different languages.
posted by CRESTA at 9:43 PM on October 26, 2009


CRESTA: HOW MANY SPANISH SPEAKING MARINES (THERE ARE THOUSANDS) HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY, AFTER SERVING FOR YEARS IN THE MARINES, HAVE THE MONEYS TO BUY A PROPERTY............. IN """""TAOS, NEW MEXICO"""""........ A VERY EXPENSIVE PLACE NOW....

Mr. Whitten already owns 4 other motels (according to the Whitten Inn website) so he presumably was able to get a loan to buy the place or he had money he had made from his other businesses. He was a marine but he has also (again, according to the website) managed a Hilton hotel. Given his apparent age it seems unlikely he served recently and certainly not in the Iraq War.

Who is controlling MEFI???

MetaFilter is owned by Matt Haughey, who goes by mathowie on this site. The full time site moderators are cortex and jessamyn and vacapinta is a part time moderator. The fifth employee is pb, who mostly does programming. Your comment probably was deleted because it was a serious accusation without any proof that would derail the thread of conversation.
posted by Kattullus at 9:44 PM on October 26, 2009


Well, there is another conversation going on here that I don't totally grasp ...
posted by krinklyfig at 9:46 PM on October 26, 2009


And I can do this in FIVE (5) different languages.

Perhaps try calming down a bit and stating your point well in one language? I don't think anyone here is grasping what you're trying to imply and it's coming across as a bizarre derail.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:49 PM on October 26, 2009


What the fuck happened to this thread??

Calmate, Cresta
posted by Partario at 9:51 PM on October 26, 2009


It's offensive to ask someone to "anglicize" their name, in a place that is known for it's tri-culture.

I wonder if he had a problem with the employees defying him, and pulling attitude. He did say it was all relatives, and friends working together. La Familia sticks to gether here in NM.
posted by annsunny at 9:52 PM on October 26, 2009


La Familia sticks to gether here in NM.

That's true. There are 13 major families in Taos, IIRC, though I'm having trouble finding a good reference online, and they call the shots here, for the most part. Thing is, most businesses here have friends and relatives working together, and a lot are from these families, and they go back a long, long way. Whitten walked into a hornet's nest.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:04 PM on October 26, 2009


[removed a few comments - CRESTA if you need to get ahold of us, please use the contact form, other folks, be cool, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:06 PM on October 26, 2009


TEXAS, by the way comes from the SPANISH word TEXAS

Texas is a Spanish bastardization of a word of the Native Americans in the region and means "friendly." Its similarity to the Spanish word Tejas is more coincidental than anything.
posted by birdherder at 10:15 PM on October 26, 2009


he forbade the Hispanic workers...from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him)

I'd love to be a Spanish-speaking fly on the wall at happy hour. What's the word for "asshole" again? Maybe something more colorful?

When people from other countries choose to anglicize their names, it's often a kindness. I work with college kids from all over the planet. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, my inept grasp of pronouncing some letter combinations in other languages just lets me down, and I'm glad when they offer me an easier nickname, generally a shorter version of their given name. I've especially had trouble with some Indian names, embarrassingly enough. I really do try.

Believe it or not, I was a technical writer/editor for pharmaceutical paperwork/government toxicology and carcinogenicity reports in my first career for 5 years. It isn't that I'm ignorant or stupid, it's just that my mouth and throat have to be trained to make those sounds. This might sound dumb, but I practice saying the names that give me trouble when I'm at home, and I'm happy when I finally get them right. I feel that it's respectful to the bearers of the names to say them as correctly as I can. And, I'm sure they are forgiving when I get close, but not exactly spot on.

We all know the joke about the person who only speaks one language:
That's an American.

All that said, even I can manage Spanish pronunciations of names. Often, the Spanish pronunciation is prettier sounding to my ear.

And this Whitten guy? He's a supreme jerk.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:18 AM on October 27, 2009


No matter how fit he sees it, he can't require the employees to have sex with him.

Doesn't this describe the Playboy Mansion?
posted by alasdair at 1:08 AM on October 27, 2009


I've especially had trouble with some Indian names, embarrassingly enough.

Follow cricket. Nothing has helped my ability with Indian and Sri Lankan names like years of Harbijans, Sachins, Muttiahs, and so on.
posted by rodgerd at 1:24 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The disenchanted employees. . . wanted to keep the status quo for a hotel that had been losing $1,000 to $2,000 per day and had been through four owners in the past five years, Whitten said."

Gee. Sure hope that nobody starts calling to protest his policies at their toll free numbers. That could get expensive.
posted by markkraft at 3:06 AM on October 27, 2009


They sure have an awful logo as well.
posted by pyrex at 3:21 AM on October 27, 2009


complaints in the newspapers about the smell of roasting chile

It's one of the top ten best goddamn smells in the world. I mean, it's up there with girlfriends and burning leaves.
posted by Rat Spatula at 6:31 AM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


If I had my druthers, I would wish that each community could keep its local flavor, instead of being blandified to death. I like the fact that growing up in California I got exposed to Spanish place names like Bolsa Chica and El Camino Real and Los Banos (which, by the way, does NOT mean "The Bathrooms.") Even though my racial heritage is 100% White European, culturally I am part Hispanic. I love the food: the chilies, the avocados, the tomatoes, and the cornmeal in all their various combinations. I love the architecture: the stucco walls, the adobe bricks, the Spanish tile roofs, the crumbling Missions, the sprawling haciendas. I love the history. It doesn't need to be anglicized, it needs to be embraced and savored.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:50 AM on October 27, 2009


Someone else pointed out that having rolled 20 hotels over 40 years, he's probably in the business of scooping up properties, making cosmetic improvements and then dumping them onto the first rube he can convince that the property is a sure-fire investment. So it's possible he was wanting a nice song and dance for potential investors.

Regardless, I feel I have to continually remind my English-only kin that descendants of Spanish colonization have just as much a claim on America as my son-of-the-mayflower ass.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:53 AM on October 27, 2009


Interesting discussion. Thanks in particular for the comparison to New Orleans, kitchenrat. Despite living in New Mexico for two years I'd never quite understood how unique New Mexico is in having a culture with a long history that's different from the English/German that dominates most of the US.
posted by Nelson at 8:13 AM on October 27, 2009


Nelson: Of course, there is a strong argument to be made that the rest of America primarily looks Anglo-Saxon protestant because that group did an excellent job of marginalizing everyone else on the block.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:24 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nothing has helped my ability with Indian and Sri Lankan names like years of Harbijans, Sachins, Muttiahs, and so on.

Then again, despite being Indian and somebody who's surname goes for 15 letters when transliterated into the Roman script, I was never able to pronounce Vaas' full name. :-)

Also, a curious point, but 'Muthiah' is how an 18th century saint by the name Benjamin Shulge transliterated 'Mathew' into Telugu (and presumably, Muralidharan's mother tongue, Tamil). Which is not to say, though, that 'Muthiah' is Mathew in Telugu or Tamil - the name presumably has older etymological roots - merely that that's partly how the Bible was Indianized.
posted by the cydonian at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2009


I don't see anything wrong with what he's doing.

If you will concede that what Whitten is doing is, in essence, begging Reis Tijerina to drive up from El Paso and pop him square in the ass for being such a pendejo grande, then I wholeheartedly agree.
posted by deejay jaydee at 9:10 AM on October 27, 2009


This might sound dumb, but I practice saying the names that give me trouble when I'm at home, and I'm happy when I finally get them right. I feel that it's respectful to the bearers of the names to say them as correctly as I can.

Exactly. My job involves dealing with large groups of people at once and addressing each individually by surname. It's possible to correctly pronounce anyone's first or last name with a very small amount of effort, i.e. listening carefully, asking if my pronunciation is correct, and using phonetic notes to myself to remind me. Some sounds are trickier at first but we all can make them. Given the diversity in the US, and the fact that we are becoming demographically more diverse at a rapid pace, seems like everyone should get used to making the effort. Mr. Whitten is a dinosaur, and I bet he finds his approach leads to business failure this time.
posted by bearwife at 9:18 AM on October 27, 2009


I am not a lawyer, but I think that forcing employees to anglicize their names could be a strong case for a racial/ethnic harassment suit. So I'm not certain he's legally entitles to do what he did.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:50 AM on October 27, 2009


Bit of a derail, but as to the Spanish spoken in Taos - is the New Mexican Spanish closer to Castillian or to Americas? I found this note, but nothing more definitive. (For that matter, how close to Modern Spanish Spanish is Seventeenth Century Spanish Spanish?)

Assuming the link is correct, are there any other enclaves of old colonial Spanish in the Americas? Any studies done on them?
posted by IndigoJones at 11:00 AM on October 27, 2009


IndigoJones,

When I was in high school, which was a while ago, some friends had a foreign exchange student from Spain living with them, here in NM. The language was the same, but the accents were terribly different. Of course, there are probably regional colloquialisms after several hundred years.
posted by annsunny at 11:47 AM on October 27, 2009


IndigoJones, I would imagine NM Spanish is close to the Spanish of Northern Mexico. The pronunciations that define modern Castillian Spanish didn't occur until well after the conquest and colonisation of the Americas. Also, given that it was fairly isolated until recent times, I would imagine there are some archaic holdovers.
posted by Partario at 3:15 PM on October 27, 2009


About the Spanish/Mexican difference. Spanish people are your friends. Mexicans are the people you see on the news.

It always bothers me when fellow Texans say someone is "Spanish." It always said exactly how I imagine "colored" was said in the 50s. Polite and correct and quite obviously NOT US.

I recently had a coworker try to tell me about one of my clients, and her only descriptors was "Spanish" and male and I finally had to tell her that none of the people there that day were Hispanic to my knowledge and could she please give me something else to go on. Still don't know who she meant. Grr.
posted by threeturtles at 3:26 PM on October 27, 2009


Thank you, annsunny and Partariio. I love that kind of stuff.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:39 AM on October 28, 2009


It always bothers me when fellow Texans say someone is "Spanish." It always said exactly how I imagine "colored" was said in the 50s. Polite and correct and quite obviously NOT US.

I don't like it either, but it beats the way one of my elderly relatives (born in the 20s and raised in east Texas before moving to the big city of Beaumont) talks about Hispanic folks: she calls them "Mexican" and it sounds like "nigrah", which is what she's managed to improve her term for black people to.
posted by immlass at 7:17 AM on October 28, 2009


If anyone is still reading this, the most recent edition of our local newspaper (weekly, because it's a small town), has an article about Whitten. Apparently he wants to stay, though earlier he did say he planned to sell. Not sure how that will work out for him, but he still feels as if he's just been misunderstood, and that the problem started when he did drug testing and fired some people when he bought the place. But he doesn't really address the racial comments about names, and I'm not sure that the town has warmed to him at all, though he seems to think it will all blow over. We'll see. He may yet redeem himself here, but by all accounts he doesn't think he needs to.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:40 PM on October 30, 2009


IndigoJones, I would imagine NM Spanish is close to the Spanish of Northern Mexico.

Yes, for the most part, but people in northern Mexico speak much faster than people do here. And there are dialectic differences which are pretty significant now, in no small part because the local Latino Taoseños don't consider themselves Mexican. And the dialects within the state are distinguishable. One recent comprehensive study by the University of NM found something like 18 different variations on the Spanish word "turkey" in NM alone.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:47 PM on October 30, 2009


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