Remembering the Past for the Sake of Our Future

The sixth annual vigil in memory of Marcelo Lucero took place Sunday, Nov. 6.
The sixth annual vigil in memory of Marcelo Lucero took place Sunday, Nov. 6.

One hundred and fifty people gathered in a small Latino evangelical church In Patchogue next to the spot where seven young men ambushed Ecuadoran immigrant Marcelo Lucero in 2008. They assembled not to discuss the murder but to remember the man most of them had never met and to rededicate themselves to ensuring that no other immigrants share his fate.

On my seat was a cut out paper peace sign with the words, “He who forgets the past is condemned to relive it.” Many of the speakers said that the night of November 8, 2008 was etched in their memories. Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri reminded the assembly that “the minute we forget is the minute that we go backwards.”

Rabbi Joel Levinson of Temple Beth El remembered that he found out about the killing on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the day that mass violence against the Jews began in Nazi Germany. The theme of remembering beyond the specific death in Patchogue was taken up again and again by the speakers.

Marcelo Lucero’s brother, Joselo, asked that the audience remember the recently arrived Central American children who were, he said, “running from danger.” They were being turned away by Long Island schools and victimized by politicians. Joselo said that the day was about remembering the mistakes of the past and trying to learn not to repeat them again and again.

Rabbi Steven Moss summed up what many speakers implied. “We are doing wonderful things in Marcelo’s memory,” he said, but, “we must never be so complaisant to think that we have done it all.”

Among those at the memorial was Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. Although he does not speak at these annual gatherings, he has attended them regularly throughout the years.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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