They say that you can get by in Miami even if you don’t speak English, but you can’t get by without Spanish.
Not all Miami residents like that linguistic imbalance. Some don’t talk about their discontent, some whisper it, and a few say it loudly. That third group may include a young UPS Store employee in Kendall, which has a good-sized Hispanic population.
He is seen in a video recorded as he launched a xenophobic attack on a client who wanted a refund for a package she claimed was never delivered.
Rebecca Prinstein, 47, arrived from Cuba in 1992. She can speak a little English but prefers her native Spanish and speaks it during most of her daily activities in Miami, a multicultural city.
That’s what she expected to do when she went to the UPS store. But that’s not what happened.
“F---ing Spanish … You don’t speak English,” one UPS employee tells Prinstein in the video posted on social networks by her husband, Ernesto Fernández.
“Why are you talking to me so nasty? Look, I am recording you because of your lack of respect,” she’s heard telling the clerk in Spanish.
“No, you don’t have respect for anyone, and I am not going to give you any respect,” the clerk answers, in faulty Spanish.
Fernández told el Nuevo Herald that his wife “has been very stressed. She cries often. She’s been feeling bad, doesn’t sleep. At first she was afraid of going near the store. That guy was very violent.”
Fernández, a Cuban-born architect, said he believed that outbursts like the UPS Store employee’s “are happening because this president [Donald Trump] has given free rein to racism in this country. They feel they have the right and the power to do and say anything. There was no reason for this to happen. She simply went there to do a transaction.”
UPS has apologized for the incident. “All of The UPS Store franchises are independently owned and operated locations, and each franchisee is responsible for hiring their own employees in accordance with state laws and regulations,” it said in a statement. “The UPS Store, Inc. is an equal opportunity organization and we value diversity.”
“The store employee who appears on the video no longer works for UPS,” added company spokesperson Jenny Robinson.
Fernández said Prinstein went to the UPS Store with her mother, who speaks only Spanish, to pick up a $25 refund. His wife had sent out the package from the store about one month ago, but it was returned because of an error.
Fernández said he was waiting in the parking lot and tried to go into the store after his wife told him about the incident, but the employee “confronted me with a screwdriver in his hand.”
The couple are consulting with a lawyer about possible legal measures.
Fernández described Prinstein as a smart woman who studied hospitality in Cuba and worked in Miami for a satellite TV company. But her English remains limited despite taking several courses.
“I’ve spent a lot of money on English Without Barriers,” he said.
It’s not the first time that faulty English triggered an incident in Miami. A Miami-Dade inspector last year slapped a $250 fine on a Hispanic Uber driver at Miami International Airport because she did not speak fluent English.
Authorities said drivers must have some basic knowledge of English to communicate with passengers, but eventually dropped the fine.
U.S. Census figures show that 67.7 percent of Miami-Dade residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, and 52.2 percent are foreign-born.
A study last year by the respected Pew Research Center showed that four out of every 10 Hispanics reported having experienced some sort of discrimination in the United States because of their ethnicity.