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IE residents protest Spanish billboard

September 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Wells Fargo put up billboards in Spanish, designed to bring in Spanish-speaking customers. But they've also kicked up controversy. Some Hesperia residents are complaining to city hall that it's bad for the city's image. What the sign says is simple: "We're here for you when you have financial questions." What's controversial about this sign is not what's said, but the language in which it's printed. And this sign in Hesperia caused quite a stir at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

"I am not going to stand here and let corporate America decide what language I'm going to speak," said one Hesperia resident.

It wasn't even an issue on the city council agenda.

"I am American, born, raised in America, and it is objectable," said another Hesperia resident.

But when several citizens voiced their complaints about a Wells Fargo billboard:

"I think they should be in English as well as Spanish, because there are Korean signs down there and I don't understand that gibberish," said another Hesperia resident speaking at the city council meeting.

It opened a floodgate of controversy on both sides.

"I'm not upset or mad at Mr. Herrera, I'm disgusted with him," said another speaker at the city council meeting.

"There will be no name-calling or pointing, or I'll have you removed from chambers," said one city council member.

"I'm very disgusted with this individual," said a resident at the city council meeting.

"We are a free country, we are a free country -- freedom of speech," said a resident at the meeting.

Some say Wells Fargo is just trying to reach as many people as possible. And while the Census Bureau reports almost three-quarters of Hesperia is white, almost a third is Hispanic.

These numbers don't add up exactly to 100 percent, because some people report multiple ethnicities.

On the streets Thursday, reaction was as mixed as it was at the council meeting.

"They're just helping the Hispanics understand what they do," said Apple Valley resident Sheila Hernandez.

"I think it should be in English, the sign, not in Spanish," said a local resident.

"Probably English is better, more people understand," said a passerby.

"We are a melting pot, of course, but I really still think it should have both languages," said Apple Valley resident Diana Ona.

Wells Fargo issued a statement Thursday:

"It's important that all our customers understand our advertising -- which is why you'll discover we advertise in multiple languages. 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 local population."

As far as what Hesperia will do about the sign: nothing, because there's nothing illegal about it.

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