Woman told to stop speaking Spanish at retirement community

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- "Since I got here I have been harassed and don't feel welcome."

When Katherine Hernandez moved into a Salvation Army retirement community, she never thought she would have to fight to feel equal.

"The thing is (the director) taking away my rights," she said.

Hernandez received a letter this week from the director, saying in part, "The United States of America is an English-speaking country and those who come to the United States or are born here should learn to speak the language."

The letter went on to say, "It is rude to sit in the lobby and speak Spanish...This is grossly unfair to the 25% who do not speak Spanish and needs to change."

Hernandez said she was the only person to receive the letter.

"I'm paying out of my social security for this?" she said in tears. "I can't even speak my language, that's not right."

Hernandez said there are many unfair situations happening at the complex, but most of the residents, who are Hispanic, are too afraid to speak out.

She said she's reached out to other leaders at the Salvation Army for help. "They didn't do anything about it," she said.

The letter, however, was the last straw.

"I have never excluded a person that walks by," she said. "This is my native language and I love my Spanish. It's like telling a person that goes to Mexico, 'No, no don't speak English.'"

The Salvation Army gave ABC13 the following statement Tuesday:
"The recent complaint regarding Spanish being spoken at one of our communities is currently under investigation. The Salvation Army of Greater Houston is committed to making sure those we serve feel welcome and meeting the needs of the community without discrimination through a wide range of programs and services. The Salvation Army allows all languages and has some operations that are 100% Spanish - all relative to the first language of the program participants." -Salvation Army of Greater Houston

"This is our last years, this is gonna be my last home and I have to fight," said Hernandez. "I don't want to live like this."

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