Sunday marks a year since the night authorities say seven teenagers attacked Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, a hate killing whose effects are still felt across this South Shore village, the county and beyond.
While Marcelo’s murder resulted in stricter laws regarding bias crimes in Suffolk County, the community remains divided with regard to the anti-immigrant sentiment among the locals.
Divided on pervasiveness
At Patchogue-Medford High School, many want to move on, saying the Lucero killing was not indicative of a pervasive problem in the community.
“I only see good here, I don’t see any bad,” Maureen Kawko, president of the Patchogue-Medford High School PTSA. “That was seven students out of 2,950. So it really is not a reflection at all of what our district or our student body is. We live in a diverse community and I feel that it’s always been very harmonious.”
But not everyone shares that feeling.
Norma Cardenas, 41, has a son in 10th grade. Cardenas is so disturbed by reports of racist comments that she wants to move back to South America.
Her son said it’s common for students to call him or other Latinos “beaners” or “border jumpers.”
“I tell them I’m Ecuadorean, I was born here,” he said in an interview. “They don’t care, they still say it.”
On Friday, speaking to high school students from across the county at the Congress for Justice, a daylong conference on tolerance, Levy made some of his strongest remarks to date condemning the attack.
“There were a number of peers to those people charged within the school who knew that this type of [behavior] was going on for weeks prior,” Levy said. “And do you know what the shame was? The utter disgrace – not one of those young people told a parent, or told a school authority or told police; they looked the other way.”
No matter your personal opinion on the climate toward immigrants, the rate of biased attacks against immigrants within the city is double that of the reminder of the entire densely populated county.
Hispanics still attacked
Police say there have been 11 anti-Hispanic hate crimes reported in Suffolk this year from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31 – five in the Fifth Precinct encompassing Patchogue and surrounding areas. That compares with six countywide last year.
Since the murder of Marcelo a strong pro-immigrant movement has been organized through the internet in Long Island. The community is working steadily on raising public awareness and changing laws.
This past summer they hosted a “Speak out/Stop hate” video competition and the psa’s created are now being distributed for film festivals. Click the following link to see the winning film, titled “Smile, Stop Hate.”
And a short film was also created about the murder of Marcelo titled, “Taught to Hate.” Here is the trailer:
A friend recently told me that individual student stories are far more compelling than statistics. So please pass this story along and help more people remember Marcelo.