Wells Fargo has two billboards in Hesperia, but the bank's advertising is focused on a segment of the city's population: Spanish-speakers. Discussion of the bank's marketing took up much of Tuesday night's Hesperia City Council meeting.
Activist Raymond Herrera and several supporters attacked the bank's decision to run all-Spanish ads in the city.
"Language is the spirit of the blood of a nation. It must be said that English is the spirit of the blood of America," Herrera said during the public comment portion of the meeting. "The only people who read those signs are illegal aliens who have crept into America. … This is not conducive to the commonwealth of Hesperia."
Herrera is the founder and spokesman for We The People.
"I am sick and tired of diversity and multiculturalists," he said. "This country was founded by Anglo-Protestant settlers."
A total of seven people spoke against the billboards at Tuesday's meeting.
"They should have made a better business decision instead of just putting Spanish in," said Corralee Longdin. "It's an insult to everyone who has learned from Spanish to English when they came into this country."
"We are spending billions of taxpayer dollars to educate people in the language of English," said Robin Hvisdston. "Signs are easy to read and these would be good avenues for the citizens learning English."
"I am American, born and raised in America," said Sadie Barajas, "And it is objectable."
"There's nothing wrong with speaking a secondary language, but the number one language in California is English," said Ed Broderick.
But Wells Fargo's decision to go with Spanish-language billboards also had its supporters. Three people spoke up in favor of the billboards.
"I am a first-generation American, because both of my parents were illegals when they came here in 1917," said former Victorville City Councilman Felix Diaz. "I suffered the indignities and physical abuse in school because I could not speak English. This is a free country."
Diaz has clashed with Herrera before, most recently in a joint interview in the Victorville Daily Press. Diaz was a councilman from 1992 to 1996.
"I'm as good an American as anybody. I have served my country and I continue serving my country today," he said. "I'm not upset or mad with Mr. Herrera. I'm disgusted with him."
"'Yo quiero Taco Bell,' I didn't see them out there protesting then," said Raul Martinez, referring to a Taco Bell ad campaign featuring a Spanish-speaking Chihuahua. "We're almost in a depression. This thing is trying to generate money. It's not hurting anybody: It's putting money in the banks."
"First there was the Spanish [flag], then the Mexican, then the republic, then it became American. The first language was Native American, then it was Spanish and then it became English," said Carlos Carreon. "Mr. Herrera wants to complain about this country being English-only? Then he needs to go stand at the Statue of Liberty with a sign that says 'send them back.'"
After the speakers had spoken their minds, council members told them that there was little they could do about the signs.
"I wish you would direct your anger toward Wells Fargo or even Lamar [Outdoor Advertising]. You can get more done there," said Mayor Thurston "Smitty" Smith. Smith later noted that he had called Lamar himself, as a private citizen, and expressed his concerns. "We as the city of Hesperia cannot control the content of the signs."
"I think that we're picking at the little things that don't mean a hill of beans to me, I'm sorry," said Councilman Ed Pack. "There's more important things that this country has to do right now, not worry about a sign in a different language."
"We don't have a dog in that fight," said Councilman Paul Bosacki. "There are some things at this level that we can't do anything about, nor can we get involved."
"It's important that all our customers understand our company communications -- including our advertising -- which is why you'll discover we advertise in multiple languages," Wells Fargo spokeswoman Edna M. Silva said in a company release issued Tuesday, just before the start of the council meeting. "Wells Fargo is reviewing the billboards we are currently displaying in the High Desert communities, and we are determining how best to communicate to the diverse local population."
The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place on October 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Avenue.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.