Airman speaks out after woman tells her speaking Spanish is 'distasteful' in uniform
© Facebook: Xiara Mercado

An Air Force airman stationed in Hawaii said she is "disgusted" after a patron outside of a coffee shop allegedly told her it was "distasteful" to speak Spanish while in uniform.

In a Facebook post that has been shared widely, airman Xiara Mercado, 27, wrote that she had just exited a Starbucks when she was tapped on the shoulder by a woman who, Mercado said, confronted her for speaking Spanish during a phone call.


Mercado, who is from Puerto Rico, wrote that she responded to the woman by saying, "I'm sorry ma'am the only distasteful thing here is that you are clueless to your discrimination, please educate your self. Have a nice day."

"I don't know how you are allowed to wear that uniform," the woman said, according to Mercado's post.

"I wear it proudly," Mercado said she told the woman as she walked away.

Mercado told NBC News in an interview Thursday that her emotions were "triggered" by the alleged exchange.

"This is my dream and [to] tell me that I’m distasteful while wearing my dream, that really triggered me,” Mercado told NBC.

"If we’re allowed to serve, then we’re allowed all these rights and respect in the same way as any other person,” she added. “I shouldn’t have to hide to speak Spanish whether I'm in uniform or not.”

NBC notes that nearly 40 percent of Latinos polled in a 2018 Pew Research Center study reported being discriminated against for their background, included being called offensive names or criticized for speaking Spanish in public.

This article was updated at 12:30 p.m. on 8/19/19