Heated exchange over language barrier caught on camera in small Colorado town

Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 3:30 PM MST
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Only on 11 News: A man was caught on camera berating a woman because she can't speak English.

This happened Wednesday night at an Elks Lodge in Monte Vista, which is southwest of Canon City near Alamosa.

A woman and her friends were there for bingo night, and the argument started when she asked the man for a card to play. A witness sent us a video of what happened, and you can hear the man, off-camera, yelling from a distance. You can watch parts of the video at the top of this article.

"No I'm not a racist, I'm saying speak English," you can hear a man telling a woman in the video.

The woman who sent us this video couldn't believe what she was hearing. The woman in the video, Maria Yanez, is originally from Mexico but has lived in the United States for 30 years. She called her daughter Nadia after the exchange and told her she was frightened.

"There's really no words to describe the feeling of fury that you feel knowing that not only a loved one but your mother was viciously attacked," Nadia Yanez explained to 11 News.

A few people stand up for Maria while the man continues to criticize her on video.

"Why don't you get the hell out," the man can be heard asking Maria in the video. "I don't have to learn, I live in America. I live in America … I speak English."

"This is such a close-knit community," Nadia told 11 News over video chat. "You don't think that that's going to happen here. And then when it does and it happens to someone that you love, it hits so close to home it's just so disappointing."

Police were called to the lodge. The police chief tells us this is being investigated as a harassment case for now.

Elks Lodge sent 11 News a statement, apologizing for the incident. You can read the statement below:

"On behalf of the Elks Organization, the Monte Vista Lodge and its members we offer a sincere apology for the incident which occurred during the bingo session on Feb. 5, 2020. The vitriolic actions and words of the involved individual are inexcusable, intolerable and totally unacceptable. His behavior is not representative of the elks’ organization, the Monte Vista lodge or its members, or of their beliefs. That elk has tendered his resignation, is no longer an officer, and has been discharged from the bingo committee. The person at whom those hurtful words and actions were directed was personally apologized to that evening and an apology was made to everyone in attendance. It is the hope of the Monte Vista Lodge that the community will view it in light of its charitable work and activities performed by its members and volunteers and not for the repugnant act of one individual. The Lodge offers its heartfelt and sincere apology to everyone affected by the divisive action of one person."