A year ago Sunday, a group of teens left Marcelo Lucero bleeding and dying on a street in Patchogue, New York - with a knife wound to the chest. Lucero, 37, was an immigrant from Ecuador whose death has become a national symbol of civil rights and humanity in a country that too often abandons its founding ideals.
As Americans remember the tragic murder on Long Island, real immigration reform is currently on the slow track in Washington, even though 100 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama urging action this Congressional session. Yet this week's election results have some ominous signs: Republican gubernatorial candidates who promised more hardline immigration stances - fueled by pure hatred - won races in Virginia and New Jersey.
The lessons from the Lucero killing are stark and clear. Lucero's attackers told police that they would routinely go "beaner jumping" -- which meant they would hunt down and assault Latinos. In announcing indictments last year, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said the seven students charged in the attack admitted they regularly beat Hispanics for fun. He said one of the accused attackers, Anthony Hartford, 17, of Medford, told police “I don’t go out doing this very often, maybe once a week.” Said Spota: “To them, it was a sport.” Today, one of the defendants in the case - Nicholas Hausch, 18, of Medford, NY - pleaded guilty to four felony charges and will cooperate with authorities in prosecuting the other accused Long Island teens. According to Newsday:
Before coming across Lucero, Hausch said the group pursued another man. "I got out of the car and I chased him. We were yelling at him," calling him a derogatory name, he said.
Authorities say the group surrounded Lucero, 37, and a companion at about 11:50 p.m. near the Long Island Rail Road Station, shouting and pummeling him before he was knocked to the ground. They say Jeffrey Conroy, of Medford, fatally stabbed him. Conroy faces murder and manslaughter charges as a hate crime.
Hausch said as the group left, he told Conroy to throw the knife away. Conroy said, "No, I washed it in a puddle," according to Hausch.
While they were leaving, Hausch told the group, 'We're not getting away with it,' " he told prosecutors.
Lucero's death was a human tragedy, yet it also brought the increased light of scrutiny upon anti-immigrant violence in this country. I was taken with the remembrance penned by Pat Young, a colleague at Long Island Wins, the campaign working for immigration reform and fairness on Long Island. Pat's words hit home:
I thought of this working man, this churchgoer, this loving son and brother, on his way to relax at the end of a long work week. Thousands of miles from home in a place that had become increasingly hostile to people like him.
Tired, hoping for the reward of rest in front of a TV, in the company of a friend, he was set upon by young men who heard from parents and politicians that immigrants were "invaders" and "low-level terrorists". Marcelo Lucero's companion was able to escape. But Marcelo, being hit by the type of young men who only fight when the odds are overwhelmingly in their favor, took off his belt to avoid the humiliation of submission, to fend off the fists and kicks of youths with nothing better to do, on what to Marcelo was a work day, than drink and hunt humans.
Latinos have learned the lesson of Marcelo Lucero. He died a lonely death amid the taunts of those who killed him. He may have called out for his mother in his last moment, but he heard in reply not her soothing voice but the rude curses of ignorant teenagers.
A horrible fate. But was it a meaningless death after all?
Let's make sure it wasn't. Marcelo Lucero's family will hold a vigil in his memory on Saturday near the train station where he lost his life. The vigil will start at 6pm on Saturday, November 7, and be followed by a 7:30pm religious service at the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Main St.
During the vigil, the family will collect donations for the Marcelo Lucero Scholarship fund, which raises money for students at Patchogue-Medford High School. You can also contribute to the fund by mail, making your check payable to Marcelo Lucero Scholarship, and sending it directly to Patchogue-Medford High School (181 Buffalo Ave., Medford, New York 11763).
Or join the blog campaign and remember Lucero.
Bloggers all over the net are remembering Lucero this weekend. Some highlights -
A tribute from Nezua at The Unapologetic Mexican:
"Marcelo Lucero’s is one of those stories that haunts
you...I shudder to think of what it means to die in such a
way...Mexican, Guatemalan, Cuban…they don’t care what kind of spic you
are. “Beaner” is good enough."
Prerna Lal at Change.org:
"Have you spoken out against hatred? What have you done
since Marcelo was killed to make sure that these atrocities do not
happen in your neighborhood and on your watch?"
Marisa Trevino at Latina Lista:
"As an immigration reform bill takes shape, the rhetoric
against non-citizen immigrants will only increase, as will the
animosity towards them. Chaos is bound to follow because people who
feel empowered and justified will implement their own definition of
justice as those boys did with Marcelo."
Diego Graglia from Feet in 2 Worlds quoted an email from me:
“From what we’ve seen, Levy has looked at the Lucero murder
as more of a public relations problem than a genuine crisis, with
frequent insensitive comments about immigrants that have led us to
question whether he’s acting in good faith.”
Ecuadorian-American blogger Sarbelia Bermeo at A Latina's Thought:
"Regardless of the assumption made by Suffolk County’s
Executive Steve Levy, his death was not a “One Day Story”. Instead it
has opened a Pandora’s Box which can no longer be ignored."
Maegan La Mamita Mala, recalled how Lucero's murder came shortly after
the election of President Obama. Just as people often ask if you
remember where you were when the president got elected, Maegan asks,
"Where were you when Marcelo Lucero was killed?"
Stephen Piggott at Imagine 2050
responded to Maegan's question, detailing a soccer game he was watching
at the time, and how insignificant the loss was in comparison to what
the Lucero family lost.
The Arizona-based Terry Greene Sterling, who blogs at White Woman in the Barrio,
compared the outrage over the Lucero killing to anger felt by Arizona
police after they were shot by an undocumented immigrant.
The point is," Sterling wrote. "Undocumented immigrants, like cops, shouldn’t be slaughtered on the streets."