Larry Whitten was brought in to reverse the fortunes of a hotel in Taos, New Mexico.
So he did what any smart businessman would do- he started by pissing off and alienating the heavily-Hispanic staff. Whitten has been successful at turning around other run-down, money bleeding hotels before, but it’s unclear whether obliterating cultural identity among staff has been a winning strategy in the past.
First order of business- staff were forbidden to speak Spanish in his presence. As Whitten doesn’t speak Spanish, he insisted that he was unable to tell if staff were speaking ill of him in their native tongue. Okay, minorly offensive. While not having sufficient English is certainly a difficulty for some people, and Whitten could be painted merely by that as insensitive, it wasn’t the most offensive thing he did.
Next up- your Spanish name is unacceptable. Whitten actually insisted that hotel staff, many of whom had long careers successfully serving guests- “change” their names to suit his idea of a better, whiter staff. Marcos, not a difficult name to pronounce for anyone, would have to be called “Mark” at work. And Martin (pronounced mar-TEEN), would have to defer to plain old Martin during work hours.
Surprisingly, the strict zero-tolerance Latino policy didn’t go over very well. The uber-sensitive staff didn’t like having to hide their country of birth like a prosthetic limb in an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Some employees were fired for- well, it looks like perhaps they were fired for being Hispanic, and Whitten doesn’t get the controversy. He feels he just was plopped down into a “landmine of Anglos versus Spanish versus Mexicans versus Indians versus everybody” and is “doing what he’s always done.”
But fired employee Martin Gutierrez told press that he doesn’t need to “change (his) name and language or heritage,” adding that he’s “professional the way I am.” But as Whitten seems to wonder, is it possible to be both of Hispanic heritage and professional? The mind boggles.
[Source: Star Tribune]