Norma Vasquez said she felt "awful" and "worthless" after she was berated by another customer for speaking Spanish in a confrontation caught on camera at a Southern California IHOP.
Her son, Carlos Vasquez, captured the three-minute rant on video Friday at the restaurant west of downtown Los Angeles. The clash began when a woman in large, dark sunglasses interrupted his mother, who was speaking Spanish, as they waited for a table, Vasquez said.
"We speak English in America," the woman can be heard saying.
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"I speak English. Not good, but I speak English," Vasquez's mother responded.
The unidentified woman can be heard telling Vasquez's mother to "go back to Spain." Norma Vasquez came to the United States from El Salvador in 1984.
"Spanish is from Spain," the woman said. "I've been to Spain, so I know."
The IHOP visit was an early birthday present for Vasquez from his mother. Carlos Vasquez can be heard repeatedly telling the woman she should not tell his mother she must speak English.
"Inside, I wasn't upset," Vasquez said Monday. "I got more upset when my mom started to cry. It wasn't fair for my mom to cry to a stranger just because my mom was speaking Spanish."
The woman eventually turned her full attention to Carlos Vasquez and the fiery exchange continued with the woman asking, "Do you want the Russians over here telling you what to do? Do you want the Nazis telling you what to do?"
"That's what you're doing to my mom," he responded. "You're telling her what to do. She speaks English. She's not perfect, but she speaks English."
Vasquez, whose family lives in Highland Park, said he was surprised by the woman's furor.
"This is Los Angeles," he said. "Even the name of the city is in Spanish. She shouldn't be mad or interrupting families for whatever language they're speaking."
"I felt awful, as though I was worthless," Norma Vasquez, who works for an office cleaning service, told NBC4.
Vasquez shared the video on his Facebook page. As of Monday morning, the video had 14 million views and 423,000 shares.
NBC4 and Telemundo52 have attempted to contact IHOP management for comment, but have yet to receive a response.