If you've never visited Taos, New Mexico, it's a must see before you die. Sitting on top of a mesa at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it offers breath-taking views of the desert and an array of purple, red, orange, blue, pink and adobe colors which change by the hour according to the sun and clouds. Since the 1800s Taos has attracted such painters as Georgia O'Keeffe, D. H. Lawrence and photographer Ansel Adams. Lawrence's art hangs in a little hotel near the center of town. If you didn't know he was a painter, he wasn't, but he was an extraordinary writer.
For over 200 years Taos has been inhabited by Anglos, Native Americans, Hispanics or Latinos from Spain and south of the border. The attire, buildings and local landscaping are as colorful as the vistas surrounding the town. Taos is one of the most liberal of all liberal towns -- that is until a tough-talking former Marine swaggered in from Texas with the intention of refurbishing the Paragon Inn, one of 20 he has resurrected.
According to the Associated Press, Larry Whitten immediately laid down some new rules after he bought the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel. Obviousloy paranoid, he forbade the Hispanic workers from speaking Spanish in his presence and "ordered some of them to Anglicize their names."
Whitman informed several employees he was changing their Spanish first names. He says it's a routine practice at his hotels "to change first name of employees who work the front desk phones or deal directly with guests if their names are difficult to understand or pronounce." Hope he never buys a hotel in Old Mexico or France or Spain.
I came into this landmine of Anglos versus Mexicans versus Indians versus everybody up here. I'm just doing what I've always done.
So, why did he decide on Taos? Whitten had visited this picturesque town before and liked its beauty. Apparently he doesn't consider the historically multi-cultural heritage as part of the beauty.
It has nothing to do with racism. I'm not doing it for any reason other than for the satisfaction of my guests, because people calling from all over America don't know theSpanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything.
The messages and comments he made in interviews with local media, including referring to townsfolk as "mountain people" and "potheads who escaped society," further enflamed tensions.