Subterranean Chronicles Part 9: Ignorant Oppressors

The following blog is a piece I wrote as I was working on Long Island with many Latino laborers in both my restaurant and vineyard jobs. It was 2008, and I was on the brink of starting a graduate history program studying the history of US/Latin American Relations. I was becoming increasingly aware of the exploitation of so many people and craved to be part of the solution. I thought that by raising awareness of the injustices such as the one mentioned below, it would increase the opportunity for social justice. 

In hindsight, perhaps I had been a bit naive, and the treatment was certainly heavy-handed. I received a lot of feedback on this piece much of which warned me about being too “didactic.” I include this because it was such a jarring story and an important intersection for me in many ways, which also reflected a bit of the world and my perception of it at the time.

“Until the lions tell their tale, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” 

-African Proverb 

A group of young men in Patchogue, NY with nothing better to do than drink beer and “find some Mexicans” to beat up, destroyed a man’s life on November 8, 2008. His name was Marcelo Lucero. 

The Crime

Mr. Lucero was on his way to visit a friend’s house with the intentions of watching a movie when the group of teenagers- six white kids and one of a mixed racial background traveling in a bulbous black SUV slammed on its breaks, hunted him down, and brutally beat him until inches of death before one of the youths ended his life by violently jamming a steel blade into his ribcage. 

Lucero came to the U.S., the land of opportunity for a better life. He would deprive himself of life’s simplest pleasures to send what he could to his family for a proper house in his native hometown of Gualaceo, Ecuador. He scrimped, saved, and suffered for 15 years to send his family money in hopes of fulfilling his dream of a better life for those he loved. 

The Victim

One of his few true pleasures was the photographs his family sent to him of the home as it grew through construction. After over a decade of work, sat the home his labor created, completed for four years, yet he would never be able to see his dream realized with his own eyes. Reports from his family say, he had finally saved enough money to return and see before him the fruit of his sacrifice and was planning to buy a plane ticket before his murder. 

His mother lamented that she just wanted to see the faces of those who would kill her son, “I don’t want to hurt them,” said the crushed mother. “But I want them to see he had a mother here waiting for him. I want to put their hand on my heart and feel the enormous damage they have caused this family.”  Friends said that Lucero was a happy man, always quick to flash a smile. (Long Island Newsday

Lucero did not grow up in a $500,000 home with three meals a day and snacks when his little tummy grumbled, as did his murderers.  He was not given a cell phone for his fifteenth birthday and allowed to borrow daddy’s SUV after dark when he turned seventeen. He grew up in Ecuador where a day’s wage would barely be able to cover a school lunch at a Long Island high school. 

The Defense

He did not leave his homeland and the people he loved because he would rather gaze over the cold strip mall lined with parking lots of Riverhead, NY. He made his way to Long Island for the simple fact that it is better to be part of the underclass of America than the global underclass who cannot meet the basic needs of shelter, clean air, safe drinking water, food, and minimal healthcare.

He was not taking jobs from these young men. His killers were so handicapped by privilege that they would have scoffed at his minimal wages working at a Riverhead dry cleaners often for sixty-plus hours a week. They didn’t know that reality.

They had been taught by a failing system where schools teach propaganda and parents are too busy compiling material things to educate children properly. It is a searing truth that these young men were reared by people too mentally weak to teach them the basic difference between right and wrong. 

What these boys should have been learning is how the U.S. flag they and their families blindly follow has historically destroyed legitimately elected populist governments in favor of repressive right leaning regimes who allow profiteering by many U.S. based multinational corporations, such as the United Fruit Company, in numerous Latin American nations.

These U.S. installed regimes keep the standard of living in these countries unnaturally low so a precious few can reap windfall profits, forcing men like Lucero to emigrate in hopes of finding a better life for himself and his family. 

Lucero’s death has been portrayed as a simple hate crime carried out by a group of teenagers at the expense of an Ecuadorian man, out of apathy and too much to drink. I assure you this crime is only the thin veneer of a culture with a huge problem, ignorance.

Until people can begin to understand the plight of the U.S. Latin American population, this kind of injustice will continue. It is time for people to not settle for a contentment of easy answers and reach to the core of the real reason why their children hate. 

The Punishment

His seven killers have all been charged with assault and one with manslaughter as a hate crime. These young men brutally beat and murdered an innocent man. I believe if a group of Latin American gang members brutally murdered a white high school star athlete like Jeffrey Conroy, one of Marcelo Lucero’s killers, that the justice system would have dealt with his killers differently.

What kind of message are our authorities sending to the Latin American immigrants in the U.S.? By treating the murder of an innocent man in the way the authorities and media have, we are only perpetuating systematic racism right here in the land of the free and home of the brave, as we always have.

For those of you who would like to know how the legal case played out, this is a pretty good article about the trial and convictions.