By AMANDA MARTINEZ
Arizona Sonora News Service
Huachuca City Mayor Ken Taylor says he felt blindsided by the uproar that followed his terse declining of an email invitation to attend the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association because it was written in both English and Spanish. But he did not back down.
In an interview with Arizona Sonora News Service, Taylor doubled down on his resistance to being addressed in Spanish as well as English. But he also said he thought the email was “spam” and that the Border Mayors Association, which Huachuca City has been a member of since before Taylor was elected mayor in 2013, “didn’t seem like a legitimate organization and it still does not.”
“I never really knew I was participating in the first place,” Taylor said.
The conflict began in August when he received an email invitation to a meeting of the Border Mayors Association in Laredo, Texas. The invitation was written in English followed by a Spanish translation. Attached was a draft meeting agenda written in Spanish followed by English.
The controversy ensued when Taylor’s reply became public in a report in The El Paso Times. “I will NOT attend a function that is sent to me in Spanish/Mexican,” he wrote in August to John Cook, the executive director of the mayors group, and a former mayor of El Paso. “One nation means one language and I am insulted by the division caused by language.”
When Cook apologized for any offense and offered to take Taylor off the group’s email list, Taylor sent another reply that said America was “going Down Hill fast because we spend more time catering to others
The invitation said:
“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.”
A Spanish translation appeared below.
“La emoción está construyendo y estamos listos para una gran reunión de la Asociación de alcaldes de la frontera de 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.”
Angry that Spanish appeared first in an attachment, Taylor said English always needs to be first in America. “My message is not anti-Mexican, it is just simply pro-American,” Taylor said in an interview.
Taylor described the attached agenda as a “crappy draft” and called the invitation itself an “injustice to America.”
Taylor said Cook included the El Paso Times in the email exchanges after he received his initial reply from Cook, and that the reply was inadvertently addressed to a wider group of people. Taylor said he unknowingly clicked “reply all” when responding to Cook and believed he was “replying to one person who had knowledge” of the situation.
He also blamed “stupid email programs” for The El Paso Times having obtained access to the email exchanges.
Taylor said the newspaper “didn’t print the full context” of the emails. However, the newspaper included extensive passages from the exchange in the stories.
“I did say something to the effect that I would not attend a function that has Spanish Mexican listed first,” Taylor said.
However, he added, “If I knew it was going out to the world, I would have rephrased it,” Taylor said.
But Taylor’s response was not limited to his thoughts on the English language.
In one message to Cook Taylor wrote, “If Mexico is NOT stopping drugs, crime, and terrorists from coming INTO our country from Mexico, then Mexico is not a friend and I don’t care to help. I have better things to do in fighting the problems they export to us.”
Although Taylor said he believes Cook told the media about their email exchange to create “negative controversy,” he did see some positives. He said the incident encouraged him to reach out to county sheriffs in New Mexico, Texas and Florida in the hopes of forming a new organization focused on “information-sharing for border security” Taylor said.
“I would like to be associated with groups that are about promoting America,” Taylor said.
The scope of the Border Mayors Association goes beyond security.
Mayor Pete Saenz of Laredo, who was elected co-chair of the association at th August 24 meeting that Taylor boycotted, said the group wants to serve as a unified voice for all border mayors.
“Especially now that there is so much rhetoric that impacts the border area and beyond,” Saenz said. “It is an opportunity for us to answer, to define, to give direction to what truly happens on the border.”
Saenz said he respects Taylor’s decision to not participate.
The Border Mayors Association uses English first, while recognizing bilingualism as an asset to communities in both the U.S. and Mexico Saenz said.
“I have no problem with it. That is his opinion. I am bilingual and obviously there are Mexican border mayors who are members of the association and it facilitates awareness,” he said.
Huachuca City is a town of about 1,900 population less than 20 miles from the border and about 60 miles southeast of Tucson. It is the site of the Army’s Fort Huachuca post. Apache Indians once dominated the area, and the word Huachuca is derived from the Apache.
Karen Rossi works in Huachuca City and said she “felt pride” when she heard Taylor’s statements and admired his forthrightness.
“I almost can agree with him,” Rossi said. “He is not being politically correct. I get tired of all these guys in politics who dance around things.”
Huachuca City resident Rainey Hill disagreed with the mayor’s statements.
“I wouldn’t vote for him if I knew he was like that,” Hill said.
Her partner Bryan Hill concurred. “It ain’t just English around here in America,” he said.
Despite his email exchange with Cook, Taylor said he has no “problem with Mexico and Mexican nationals or people of Hispanic heritage.” He said he does believe some “people are here illegally because they are seeking a better life.”
But Taylor remains vigilant. “I question the intentions of anyone who is here illegally and they need to be investigated seriously,” he said.
Download high resolution images here.
Amanda N. Martinez studies journalism and hopes to do investigative reporting for radio after graduation. She is from Tucson, Ariz., loves her corgi Bob and wishes she lived in an Osamu Tezuka manga.