Remembering Marcelo Lucero

One year ago, seven teenage boys in Suffolk County, Long Island, NY were trying to find a way to spend their Saturday night. Sounds like a typical American teenage night of boredom, but it would end in senseless hate, violence and death. The seven boys set out to do some “beaner jumping”. Yes, you read that right. These boys set out with the intention of finding a Latino to beat.

They found Marcelo Lucero, a 37 year old Ecuadorian immigrant who had been living in the United States for 16 years. They beat and stabbed him to death.

I remember writing about this a year ago. I was fairly new to the pro-migrant blogosphere and was still reeling from the murder of Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, PA.

Its hard to fully wrap my head around this idea. These boys were searching for a person of Hispanic heritage – ANY person of hispanic heritage. Where does this intense hatred come from?

Though after writing that initial post I soon learned about Steve Levy, the Suffolk county executive who had consistently been pushing a hardline anti-immigrant agenda in the area, and I started connecting the dots.

Then in September, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that found immigrants in Suffolk County had been living in a constant climate of fear for their safety and their lives.

Mamita Mala at VivirLatino really makes the connection in her post remembering Marcelo Lucero:

I do not draw a line separated the violence unleashed on our communities based on whether it is committed by private individuals or individuals action on behalf of the local, state or federal government. One allows and promotes the other. The continuing criminalization of immigrant communities dehumanizes and sends a message to private citizens that immigrants/Latinos/Mexicans are all criminal anyway, not worthy of protection under the law or justice.

And today, while we remember Marcelo Lucero, we must also continue to fight the dehumanization and criminalization that Mamita Mala points to in the above lines.

In a timely development of this story, yesterday one of Marcelo Lucero’s attackers plead guilty in court:

Nicholas Hausch, 18, pleaded guilty to four counts to settle a nine-count indictment, including conspiracy, gang assault, assault as a hate crime and attempted assault as a hate crime in the Nov. 8, 2008, killing of Marcelo Lucero.

Hausch will testify against the six other boys facing jail time for the brutal murder. Hopefully justice will be served, but what will that justice mean for Marcelo Lucero’s family? For the Suffolk county community? For Latinos facing hate and xenophobia daily? For the character of our country as a whole?

A court of law will not make this right.

I will close this post with something I wrote a year ago – where I quoted a moving NY Times editorial about Marcelo Lucero’s murder.

Deadly violence represents the worst fear that immigrants deal with every day, but it is not the only one. It must be every leader’s task to move beyond easy outrage and take on the difficult job of understanding and defending a community so vulnerable to sudden outbreaks of hostility and terror.

Not only every leader should take on this task, but every American. Period.

On Saturday, there will be a candlelight vigil in memory of Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, NY. I hope those of you who live in New York can attend – I wish I could be there in person.

Please visit the Long Island Wins website to sign the petition real immigration solutions to avoid more tragedies like the one in Patchogue.

One response to “Remembering Marcelo Lucero


    By Andrew Malekoff©

    Almost a year ago, Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, was murdered allegedly by a group of high school boys on a hate-crime spree. Shortly after the murder I was invited to participate as one of six panelists in an online forum sponsored by Newsday.

    The panel addressed a number of themes – exposure to prejudice, bigotry and discrimination, the role of the schools and bridging communication gaps. The final theme of the forum was “confronting authority.” This was presented by the editors as follows: “…there are growing suspicions that government institutions have played a major role in perpetuating racial tensions. New allegations that have surfaced since Lucero’s death suggest that inadequate attention has been given to patterns of hate-driven violence. Add to that the intensifying trend in law enforcement toward criminalizing and cracking down on illegal immigration. How do community members deal with racism and hate crime when law enforcement and other authorities are seen as complicit in the oppression and violence?”

    As I considered this, no prescriptive response came to mind. Instead, a troubling image was jarred loose within me. The image is of a black-and-white photograph that appears on the jacket of a book I read entitled Sons of Mississippi, by Paul Hendrickson. The book is based on that single photograph. It depicts a close-knit gathering of seven Mississippi sheriffs at the University of Mississippi prior to the admission of its first black student James Meredith in 1962. One of the sheriffs is brandishing an axe handle, to the obvious delight of the others. They are anticipating and evidently preparing to participate in the upheaval to come as James Meredith prepares to integrate the University of Mississippi.

    Hendrickson’s narrative is culled from interviews, research of documents and literature about the era. Most compelling are his interviews with the sheriffs’ sons and grandsons and with Meredith’s son, Joe, regarding their experiences with racism.

    Thinking about that photograph makes me wonder about how, 40 years from now, the children of the Long Island law enforcement and other government officials that have, in some cases, turned a blind eye to hate-driven violence or even encouraged it, will look back at the November 9, 2008 murder of Marcelo Lucero. Also how will children and grandchildren of Lucero’s contemporaries view it.

    Near the end of the book Hendrickson offers readers one final perspective on the chilling photo of the sheriffs. He quotes the poet and art critic Mark Strand, who reflects on the paintings of Edward Hopper. Strand says, “The shadow of dark hangs over them, making whatever narratives we construct around them seem sentimental and beside the point.” This describes precisely how I feel about the murder of Marcelo Lucero as I visualize a photograph taken almost one year ago of seven teen-aged boys from Patchogue, New York in white jumpsuits and handcuffs.

    Sometimes there are just no words.

    First published in the Anton Newspaper chain on Long Island, New York on September 23, 2009.

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