"I'm scorned by all my enemies and despised by my neighbors--even my friends are afraid to come near me. When they see me on the street, they run the other way. I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. I have heard the many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror. My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take me life" -- Psalm 31
Did the victim have a premonition? For this is the very Bible passage that Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucerno showed to his best friend Angel Loja just hours before he was stabbed to death by a white teenager in the village of Patchogue, NY on November 8, 2008. Tensions between whites and Hispanics had been mounting for several years and it was not uncommon for gangs of white teens to attack vulnerable Hispanics who had moved into their village on the south shore of Long Island. So what in the world would motivate these young people to do such an appalling thing? Mirta Ojito is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and Cuban immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1980 at the age of 16. Mirta, an award-winning journalist, decided that the myriad issues surrounding the murder of Marcelo Lucerno was a subject that she was uniquely qualified to explore. She presents her findings in a chilling new book "Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town". You will quickly discover that people on all sides of the extremely complex set of issues that existed in Patchogue at that time had very good reasons to be concerned. There are no simple answers here.
Imagine being a long-time resident of a quiet town where young men who do not speak the language begin to arrive in rather large numbers. A dozen or more of them move across the street from you into a house where 3 or 4 people used to live. These young men are totally unfamiliar with life in America and have no idea how to properly dispose of the garbage they create. Meanwhile, they like to walk the streets at night or are out in the backyard playing volleyball until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. They park their cars on the front lawn. And to make matters worse they are accused of taking jobs from your sons and daughters while helping to suppress wages. What do you suppose the subject of the conversation at your dinner table would be? Meanwhile, put yourself in the place of the place of the young Hispanic men who arrive in this country virtually penniless and without any means to support themselves. They have had precious little education. Chances are they were sent to this country by their destitute parents in places like Mexico, Ecuador or the Dominican Republic in the hopes that they could find work and send some badly needed money home. These men are very lonely and desperately miss family and friends in their native countries. They seek and hang out with others in the same boat for emotional support and companionship. They are doing what they have to do and will take any work they can find. Most are here illegally. It would seem that conflict with their American neighbors is all but inevitable.
In "Hunting Season" you will learn the details of the senseless murder of Marcelo Lucerno. You will meet Jeffrey Conroy, the young man who stabbed the victim to death and the other teens in the gang who set out on that brisk November evening to "get some beaners". And you will meet some of the community leaders like librarian Jean Kalenda, Rev. Dwight Wolter and Mayor Paul Pontieri who have been hard at work trying to make the village of Patchogue a more welcoming place for their Hispanic neighbors in the wake of this tragedy. Difficult issues remain and the only way they will ever be resolved is when people of good will on all sides are willing to compromise and give up some of their demands.
For the most part, I thought that author Mirta Ojito presented the facts of this case in a reasonably fair and balanced manner. However, I do take issue with her when she quotes from a report about the case issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center. I found the language used by this radical left-wing organization to be every bit as inflammatory as anything anyone on the right had to say about this tragic situation. I found "Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town" to be a fast-moving and very well-written book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with the ongoing issue of immigration. There is a lot of food for thought here.
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