Arizona Mayor Angry About Bilingual Invitation

Border AssocWhen John Cook, executive director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association, sent invitations to mayors in border states in the United States and Mexico, he didn't expect the strong reaction he got from Ken Taylor, mayor of Huachuca City, AZ. The invitation was sent in both English and Spanish, which The New York Times calls "standard for any type of official communication about binational events."

"The excitement is building and we are ready for a great meeting of the Border Mayors Association in Laredo. We hope to see you there at 9 a.m. on August 24th at the Laredo Country Club.  The draft agenda and a list of hotels is attached to this email," Cook said in the email, which then provided the Spanish translation. "La emoción está construyendo y estamos listos para una gran reunión de la Asociación de alcaldes de la frontera en Laredo. Esperamos contar con su presencia a las 9 am el 24 de agosto en el Laredo Country Club. El proyecto de programa y una lista de hoteles se adjunta a este correo electrónico."

Taylor responded to the invitation: "I will NOT attend a function that is sent to me in Spanish/Mexican."

Cook said, "I don't want to pick a flight," "I will certainly remove you from our email list. Ours is a bi-national association with mayors from the United States and Mexico that were elected to serve border communities. All of our communications are intended to inform mayors from both sides of our border about our association." Cook also said, "The purpose of the Border Mayors Association is to speak with one voice in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City about issues that impact our communities, not to speak in one language. My humble apologies if I ruffled your feathers."

The concession wasn't enough for Taylor: "American is going ‘Down Hill' fast because we spend more time catering to others that are concerned with their own self interests. It is far past time to remember that we should be ‘America First' ... there is NOTHING wrong with that."

Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of the invitation? Should invitations to U.S. mayors be written only in English?
  • Given Taylor's objection, how well did he handle the situation? What else could he have said and done? What are the consequences of his response? 
  • How well did Cook handle Taylor's reaction?