I went to my local Post Office after work today to mail my niece her August 1st birthday present. While preparing the box to send it in, a Hispanic man, about 28 years old brings in a large envelope to mail. Gary, my P.O. guy asks him how he wants it sent but the man doesn’t understand. Gary makes a few snide comments about learning english and says to me, “If he can’t speak engish I’m not helping him.” I finished my transaction as the man struggled to explain what he needs.
Let me back up and say I’m German, Irish, Puerto Rican and American Indian. I don’t speak Spanish because we were an Air Force family, traveled alot and my Dad didn’t speak it so my mother didn’t, although she is fluent, because we weren’t around her relatives. Also, I have red hair, green eyes and freckles and really don’t look Hispanic although I identify as Hispanic, among many other things.
Anyway, Gary wants the guy to fill out a form with his name and address, the name & address of the person the items are being sent to, and to declare what is in the package as it is going to Mexico. So now I know the guy is Mexican. I walk over and Gary is still making disparaging comments. I take the pen from the guy, fill out his name and all the other info because it’s on the package itself. Then I pick it up and shake it slightly and look at the package quizically. The guy gets it. “Photos, ah, poster, no-no, card,.” He makes a scribbling motion. I say, “Book, coloring book, pad?” He smiles and says, “My daughter, quartro annos.” I say, “Cupleanos?”, I think this means birthday. He nods yes and smiles at me. I fill out the rest of the form. About now I would usually get into it with Gary or anyone who riles my sense of fairness, justice and humanity, but I don’t. I’m ashamed that I’m Hispanic and can’t help too much. I think of my family, who are all Americans but who also struggled when they came from Puerto Rico in the 1940’s, and how well we’ve done. I feel bad that Gary has humiliated him by making fun of him in front of people as he tries to send his four-year old a birthday present. I take the high road, hand the form to Gary and nod at the man, Andro Zapora Cruz. He says “Thank you very much.” He has a name. An identity. He’s a man like any other man. Sending his daughter a gift. Period.