8 Times People Were Attacked for Speaking Spanish

Discrimination against anyone speaking a foreign language is not uncommon in the U

Photo: Unsplash/@unonueveochotres

Photo: Unsplash/@unonueveochotres

Discrimination against anyone speaking a foreign language is not uncommon in the U.S. but with the advent of cell phones now, these moments are being captured and shared across social media platforms. These assaults against people who are doing nothing but speaking their native language in a public space comes from white Americans, usually spewing hateful and ignorant statements about immigrants as a whole. Most recently, 27-year-old Xiara Mercado, who is a member of the Air Force, was confronted by a woman at a Starbucks after she overheard her speaking in Spanish on her phone. In a Facebook post, she wrote that the woman said, “you speaking another language that does not represent America and that uniform you are wearing, that’s distasteful.”

This sense of entitlement to confront someone speaking a language other than English in the U.S. is prevalent in every one of these racist interactions indicating a lack of respect and a lack of common decency. For the following list we’ve compiled the various instances when Spanish speakers have been verbally assaulted in a public space.


Air Force member Xiara Mercado was verbally assaulted at Starbucks


In a Facebook post, Xiara Mercado wrote that while she was waiting for a drink at Starbucks she was speaking Spanish on her phone. When the call ended a woman tapped her on the shoulder and told her that it was “distasteful” to speak Spanish wearing that uniform. Mercado followed up saying, “I’m sorry ma’am the only distasteful thing here is that you are clueless to your discrimination, please educate yourself. Have a nice day.” The woman then responded loudly saying, “I don’t know how you are allowed to wear that uniform.” Mercardo got the final words in though, saying “I wear it proudly.” The post, which has been shared more than 100k times since she first shared it July 17, ended with her addressing those who discriminate: “If you don’t see what is wrong with my story you are part of the problem. #thisisamerica.”


A bystander defends two women after they were told to speak English


In October of 2018, Fabiola Velasquez, 30, and her friend Isabel Nava Marin were at a City Market supermarket in Rifle, Colorado. While chatting in Spanish, a woman approached them, identified by police as Linda Dwire, 64. She told them that if they lived in the United States, they “shouldn’t speak Spanish, they should only speak English,” Velasquez wrote in a Facebook post in Spanish. That’s when a woman identified as 30-year-old Kamira Trent by CNN, intervened in the women’s defense saying, “Don’t harass people.” Velasquez recorded their confrontation where you can hear Trent saying “this woman needs to be escorted out of here,” and “you do not harass Hispanic women.” Dwire was arrested and charged with two counts of bias-motivated harassment, according to the Rifle Police Department, CNN reported. Velasquez wrote in her post that she’d previously seen videos of discrimination online but now that she’d lived it, she felt “helpless.”


Montana Border Patrol agent stops Latinas for speaking Spanish

Montana Border Patrol Agent Stops Latinas For Speaking Spanish Hiplatina

Ana Suda, a 37-year-old woman was grocery shopping with a friend when a Montana border patrol officer stopped them in the parking lot after hearing them speak Spanish. He asked for identification and documents and learned they’re U.S. citizens. They recorded the ordeal where he admitted his bias saying, “Ma’am the reason I asked you for your IDs is because I came in here and I saw that you guys were speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”


White lawyer threatened to call ICE on Spanish-speaking workers


In a video posted by Edward Suazo that went viral, New York attorney Aaron Schlossberg began berating employees at Fresh Kitchen in Manhattan for speaking Spanish to their customers. “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” he says to one employee. “This is America.” Other customers in the restaurant begin to laugh and it only fuels him as he threatens to call ICE, presumably for no other reason than their race. “My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country,” he says. “They have the balls to come here and live off of my money? I pay for their welfare; I pay for their ability to be here. The least they could do, the least they could do is speak English.” The irony? He promoted his fluency in Spanish on the website for his law office, according to Vox. Following the viral video, his firm was flooded with one-star reviews. Following the incident, a mariachi band performed as part of a protest against the lawyer.


Reporter Claudia Tristán for pronouncing El Paso correctly

Latina reporter gets shamed for pronouncing El in Spanish Hiplatina
Facebook/Claudia Tristán

Claudia Tristán – a reporter from El Paso for CBS4/KFOX14 – was live on the scene of an accident on the freeway and at the end of the segment, she pronounced “El Paso” in Spanish. The comments on the video on Facebook criticized the way she said it (despite the fact that it’s a Spanish term) with one commenter saying, “I hate how she says El Paso. It’s like she is saying with an “A.” Tristán responded with: “I’m saying El Paso correctly, in Spanish as it’s written,” and later wrote another comment saying, “I’m a proud bilingual Latina and will continue to pronounce words as they’re meant to.” In a previous interview with HipLatina, she said: “While there were haters, there were far more supportive viewers who replied to those people. Many, many people commented saying they were impressed with my ability to switch back and forth in between the two languages.”


Passengers Support Spanish-speaking woman after she’s told to stop


Even women who aren’t Latinas but speak Spanish aren’t immune to discrimination. In a recent plane interaction on the way to New York, author and Bravo’s Jersey Belle star Jaime Primak was told to “please stop speaking Spanish,” by a passenger.  In a tweet, Primak shared that immediately the passenger sitting next to the man who told her to “stop speaking Spanish” came to her defense by also speaking in Spanish, as did a flight attendant.


Customers Tell Puerto Rican Manager to ‘Go Back to Mexico’

Courtesy Neyzha Nicole

A Burger King manager in Florida encountered two elderly women who wanted to file a complaint after hearing him speak Spanish. The women were triggered after Ricardo Castillo started a conversation about paperwork in Spanish with a new employee. “This is America,” one of the women can be heard saying in a video posted by Neyzha Borrero, a fellow customer. “Our main language is English … Speak your Mexican at home.” Their assumption that he’s Mexican shows the extent of their ignorance especially considering he’s Puerto Rican. “If you want to keep speaking Spanish, go back to your Mexican country,” one of the women goes on to say. Castillo kept it professional despite their insults saying, “Guess what ma’am, I’m not Mexican,” Castillo replied. “You’re being very prejudice and I want you out of my restaurant right now.”


White woman threatens Puerto Rican customer with Trump deportation


Puerto Rican Johanny Santana was verbally attacked by a racist white woman for speaking Spanish at a store in Abington, Pennsylvania. The woman, who overheard Santana speaking Spanish to help a young customer, told her she should “be deported” and to go back to her “own country.” Santana recorded the encounter and posted the video to Facebook and to add insult to injury, the woman can be overheard saying “Can you stop talking to me? You’re a p*ta.” She went on to say “You shouldn’t be in this country. I hope Trump deports you.” The woman then flashed a dollar bill at Sanatana and said the money in her hands is not “drug money.” Santana retaliates with her own insults and can be heard saying “what did she just say to me?” multiple times and later admitted that she regretted her response but felt incapable of properly defending herself because she doesn’t speak English well enough.

In this Article

discrimination racism
More on this topic