Opinion: The Year Tía Luisa Tried to Defend Us From the Muslim Stamp

With more than a few lessons from my teenage cousins, my 73-year-old Tía Luisa has not only learned to Facebook and beat the highest bidder on eBay; she’s also learned the empowering force of e-blasts.

Thus, come holiday time, I no longer receive the customary gold-foiled American Greetings card that she once sent. Her annual Christmas cheer now arrives, regrettably, not tucked into a crimson envelope alongside a few thoughtfully-included Chipotle “Burrito Bucks,” but in my email in-box as a sterile message devoid of personality and, even more regrettably, any Burrito Buck.

And this December, Tía Luisa’s holiday message is different. Very different.

In lieu of delivering a gospel of Yultide cheer or peace on earth, Tía Luisa dispatches a demand. Yes, in the subject heading of her most recent e-blast, in blaring full-blown caps, are the words ‘DO NOT BUY THIS STAMP’ and upon opening her email I discover that I am instructed to adamantly and vocally boycott the Post Office’s Eid-themed postage when purchasing my Christmas stamps this year.

“All you have to say,” Tía Luisa e-commands, "is ‘No thank you, I do not want that Muslim Stamp on my letters!’ If there is one thing you forward today as a patriotic American, let it be this email!”

Via various online pages, blogs and a few good ol’ trust-worthy Wikipedia pages, I learn more about the basis of Tía Luisa’s e-rroneous e-blast. The postage in question is part of the holiday stamp program issued by the United States Postal Service, which commemorates occasions from Hanukkah to Cinco de Mayo. The Eid stamp actually observes the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadam, and Eid al-Adha, the conclusion of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

But from the fervor of Tía Luisa’s e-blast, it’s apparent that she is not aware of any such religious rituals. She derides the postage as a “Muslim Christmas stamp” that is a “slap in the face” after all the “bad things” Muslims have done to our country.

Tía Luisa’s e-blast claims to have been checked for viruses, but I feel nauseous as I see that many of her e-blast recipients—from family members to parishioners from Our Lady of Guadalupe, her church of choice for over half a century—are now responding in enthusiastic agreement.

How is it that Tía Luisa, my dear sweet auntie who heads fundraising bake sales and ships numerous care packages to Mexican orphanages, can find it in her heart to send a message tinged with such bias and hate? Has she so easily failed to remember the former falsehoods that we, as Americans of Mexican descent, have endured for so many generations? The countless forms of discrimination and suspicion that have fallen on my family as well as on my community simply for “being brown” in a predominately white America?

Like the time just this past summer when grand nephew Andrew, on his way to Baby TJ’s sixth birthday party, was stopped by the highway patrol for expired car registration tags and had the crepe paper-decorated piñata stick that was laying on the backseat of his car immediately confiscated? Sure, like many teenage boys in America, he wears his work pants XL baggy and his hair bootcamp short during the hot months, but still, how much damage could he do with that WMD – a weapon of minimum destruction?

Rather than phone Tía Luisa and directly address her with my points and concerns, I initially convince myself that it is more respectful to stay silent because, after all she is of a different generation and “doesn’t know any better.”

But then, just as I am about to close her email and push myself away from my computer, I scan her list of recipients again. There are over a hundred names; some I recognize, many I do not. And so, I take the cowardly way out. With lessons learned from one elderly Tía, I decide to let my fingers do the preaching. I hit ‘Reply All’ on my keyboard, paste this essay in the body of the message—followed by, “If there is one thing you forward today as a patriotic American, let it be this email!”—and I press ‘Send.’

Michele Serros is an author and former writer for "The George Lopez Show." She is a frequent contributor to NPR.

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