tv Book Discussion on Hunting Season CSPAN December 31, 2013 10:45am-11:31am EST
>> you essentially made yourself indispensable. >> well, there's another thing i looked at in business. there's three ways, and my dad taught me -- or maybe i read it in a book -- [laugher] that, you know, three ways to approach business. one is product innovation, right? you know, that's the mac or the apple approach, make the next product that somebody just has to have. and my dad did that with some of the automotive products that they developed whether it's the latest sub visor, the garage door opener in your car, that came there my dad's old business. two would be efficiency. you just grind out every bit of waste out of the process, and you become the low-cost provider. that's kind of the walmart model. and three is customer intimacy where you become so ingrained and indispensable to your customer that it's hard more them to get rid of you, it'd almost be like the ups model where they're handling your warranty returns, lo logistics
flow, that kind of thing. so i guess we tried to really become indispensable to our customer. >> watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> mirta ojito talks about hate crimes against latinos in the u.s. which she says has been increasing in frequency. she tells the larger story through the specific case of marcelo lucero, a 37-year-old ecuadoran immigrant who was beaten to death by a group of teenagers on long island this 2008. this is about 45 minutes. >> i feel like i'm in my living room having a conversation. i'm really, really very glad that you're all here tonight. lots of friends from different -- hi, marty -- from different aspects of my life. i almost didn't make it, actually, but that's another to
story. well, as many of you know, my book, "hunting season," is about a horrible crime, there's no other way to describe it, that took place november 8, 2008, on long island when a group of teenagers attacked and killed an immigrant from ecuador. his name was marcelo lucero. marcelo was walking with his best friend, angel. angel survived the attack but marcelo did not. there were many reasons why i was attracted to this history. one of them was the nature of the crime. i found out very early on that these young people -- and they were very young, they were 17 and 18 at the time, juniors and seniors in high school, made it a practice, sport be -- if you will, or entertainment to go
around hunting for boehners which is what they -- beaners which is what they called immigrants, presumably from mexico. during the confession, they kept talking about how they were looking for illegals from mexico. so i was horrified by that, of course, as anybody would be, the fact that the young people can think so little of a human life as to go out hunting for people as if the they were prey. the second reason is that a long time ago in a faraway land when i was a reporter for the times, "the new york times," i wrote a story about a study that two sociologists had released from university, state university at albany in which they said that immigrants were no longer going to the city. they were, in fact, bypassing
the cities and moving to suburbia. and this was happening all over the country and not just with hispanic immigrants, but all immigrants. and so i wrote a story about that, and and what they said to professors was that this would have consequences, that it would have consequences in terms of politics, in terms of elections, but also -- and we've seen that -- but also in terms of tension and all kinds of things. so i wrote a story then in 1996 and made a mental note to follow be up. -- follow up. i never did. it's one of those things reporters up -- you know, reporters just kind of move on to the next story. so when i heard about marcelo lucero, i thought this was in many ways, sadly, the perfect follow-up. because everything that they said would happen in suburbia had, in fact, happened this suffolk county. i don't know if you've ever been there, but suffolk county is about 60 miles from new york city.
and this kind of situation was going on so near, it's actually between new york city and the hamptons. and so many -- maybe not so many -- [inaudible] but so many people from new york drive to the hamptons every weekend that maybe they don't hook sideways and think, you know, this is going on here. these people are our neighbors, and it's happening right next door to us. so that was the second reason why i was attracted to this story. and the third reason was because as many of you also know, i'm an immigrant myself. i came from cuba when i was 16 years old. i boarded a boat, and i wrote a book about it called "finding -- [inaudible] and so i felt somehow connected to the story. those of us who came from cuba in 1980 came to be known as -- [speaking spanish] because the boat lift was called
the mariel boat lift. it's a term that i actually use with pride, but it became a derogatory term, no question about it. so i've always been conscious of labels and what that means, what -- how much they can hurt, how much they can taint an entire group of people. the label meant at a certain point criminality or criminal, illegality. and that label of illegality has haunted some of these people who in sufficient of folk county became -- suffolk county who became, indeed, prey. of so i began reporting the book in january of 2010 with the trial of jeffrey conroy who was one of the seven young people who attacked marcelo lucero. took me three, three very hard years. some of you here -- in fact, probably all of you here know how hard i worked.
some of you even helped me in that work, for which i'm very, very grateful. and i d there was a lot that happened in those three years. i went to wall say owe, this little village in ecuador. many of you perhaps have heard of a town about 30 miles from it. it's much smaller. most people had never been there. and the immigrants, the majority of them, are hispanics. the majority of those are from ecuador. and practically all of them are from this little village. so i was immediately attracted to that because that's how immigration happens, right? an immigrant arrives somewhere, and he or she does well, gets a job, gets a house and begins calling his or her friends and families with reports of a good
life, well, at least a better life, jobs and housing, and they follow. people follow. i was lucky enough that during my first visit i actually met the first -- [inaudible] to come to patchhog. he's in the book, of course. and and he told me the story of how he came and how he began telling seem of the wonders of long island and how they followed. so that was really great. eventually, of course, i had to go and understand the forces that had pushed people out of ecuador. because, as you know, immigration is a two-way process. there's a pull and a push effect, right? the pulling that we do with our way of life and the fact that we pay better wages and that we have jobs. not all the time, but usually. and the push is when immigrants leave for whatever reason. so i had to go to the village to find that. i found a really pretty village, crisscrossed by rivers, surrounded by mountains with an
abundance of food and very, very kind people many of whom don't want to leave. and they're doing well. not very well, but well enough to stay. it's a village that has changed dramaticallybecause of migration. in fact, i remember standing at a point in the village where the person who was helping me who was a reporter, he was the owner of the local paper in town, the local weekly, he showed me a dividing line, and he said this was our town before be immigration, and this is it now. and it had literally doubled in size. people who are in patchhog and other places from the village send pictures from magazines and money, and they say this is the house i want. down to the tile, the roof, the wood in the kitchen cabinets, the bed spread on the bed. marcelo lucero did the same. he designed the house. over the years he sent about $100,000 to have the house of his dreams built.
it was built. i visited it. and it was waiting for him. his bedroom was there waiting for him. his mother was, of course, very sad, and she gave me a tour of the house. it had three stories. and he had decided who was going to live where. he wanted to to have all the family together. he was not married, he didn't have children, but he had two sisters and one brother and a nephew. he was the godfather of the neff nephew as well. so she shoe showed to me this huge entertainment center, and she said he really wanted this very large tv, and entertainment center had to be custom made for the tv because it was so big. and so he had arrived after -- it had arrived after he was killed. and she pointed like this with herren chin to show me that now what she had on top of the tv was his ashes. it was extremely sad, extremely sad.
i also, of course, talked to the parents who talked to me, the parents of the boys who attacked. not all of them did, but two did, and the book is better because of of that, i feel. the father of jeffrey conroy, mr. conroy, was courageous and kind enough to open his home to me and to tell me about his family and his son and the family of chris overton, another of the seven boys, also talked to me. and i think there's a more i nuanced portrayal of these young men in the book simply because i know more about them because their parents talked to me. and i shared their, you know, their childhood and their life experiences and their family. um, i'm happy to report that the mayor of patchhog, he is the grandson of italian immigrants because this is a town of immigrants. mostly irish and italian immigrants. and the mayor's family is from
ca labially ya. he's never been to italy. he thinks that patchhog is the best place in the world to be. why would he want to be anywhere, particularly in the summer? so he's never been to italy, as i said, but he has been to this ecuadoran village. after this, he realized that he needed to reach out and to get to know the place that had sent so many of its people to his village. he doesn't speak spanish, he had never been anywhere pretty much. and he chose to go to the the village which is, i think, important. he read the book recently and sent me an e-mail, and he said -- i'm not quoting, but it's the spirit, he said it was a really great book and that he called it, he called it a cautionary tale that everyone should read and particularly young people. and then he sent me another e-mail without my prompting him, and he said and you can use that in any way you want to, because everybody ought to read this book. so i'm using it here because i
think everybody ought to read the book, particularly young people. and i say that because a lot of what happened in patchhog began in the high school. the high school was a really complicated place. it was a very large place. it had kids from all the towns around patchhog. it's called medford high school. and i'm going to read a little bit from a section of the book that is very telling about the high school. very short because i don't like reading. [laughter] it's, it's really, um, before i began reporting the book, two of the students at the journalism store did a documentary on the case. in fact, one of them was my student when he was working on the documentary. and it was his documentary that inspired me because i watched and i realized, this is great, but there's a lot more that i can do with a book. and so, um, they gave me -- this
is a person who's now with abc news. and they worked this documentary called running wild, and they gave me the transcript of all the interviews they'd conducted at the high school right after it happened which is really important. because those interviews in 2010 you have time to think about it, it's a different story. this is right after the murder. a boy named david, 16 and born in el salvador, now worries how, quote, the other seem, quote, the white, non-hispanic kids would throw food at the latino students who huddled together at the tables during lunch lunchtime. quote, like they would say we immigrants should go back to mexico, david recalled. and what do you do, one of the film makers inquired. nothing. most of the time we remain quiet, david replied. so when you're eating and
someone shouts go back to mexico, what goes through your head? what do you think and how do you feel? >> you can tell these are very well trained reporters. [laughter] i feel very -- long pause -- ashamed. because we're in a country that is not ours, you know? .. the school hallways, and have you had a problem with someone who dislikes imgrant students here in school? >> yes, sometimes we walk, they come by and push us, and we don't do anything because we don't want to get in trouble with them, david said. students on the way to the gym mumbled under the breath, you mexican, go back to the country, whether the student was mexican or not, or yell, talk english, and run to class. all the time, they complained, they would call the immigration authorities. the list of insults was long, you other students said, quote, and other students who said youm
hear mexican, you hear dominican you hear beaner, border hopper, the list can go on, or i.i. for a legal immigrant. another boy named williams said you can't walk in the hallway without looking back. angelika who was born in new york city said she heard nasty comments about puerto ricans and the dominicans and this is how she analyzed the behavior of her classmates and this is angelika talking. i don't think it's racist or anything. i think it's what they hear at home like when they hear stuff on the news saying mexicans are crossing the border and hispanics are coming over here and trying to take our jobs. i think it's their parents telling them all this stuff and they don't know better in their
head. so they come to school with this hatred towards hispanics when immigrants come to this country. but i think the kids here at home and come over here and think they know everything. but really they are all ignorant. so that was angelika speaking. i thought this was -- i don't have the words to express it when i read all that. this is just an example of pages of transcripts of the students talking about what went on in the high school and the grown-ups didn't know. they had never heard. this attack, this situation and also the attack on the village had been going on for a long time, and everyone in putting the town authorities claim they didn't know. it's possible they didn't know because many of the immigrants were here and they said they basically were attacked on the
way home so didn't want to attract attention to themselves. they didn't want to tell the police because they didn't know what was going to happen to them if they had called the police. have things changed, a lot of people ask me. i like to say yes they have. there's been the library that has been amazing. they were before the attacks and they continue to be. many members of the clergy have done a lot of things. rabbis, pastors. pastor greg walter had a lot of programs in his church that helped immigrants and the community in general. but i do have to tell you that i think it was in april of this year one immigrant was attacked
in patchog. so when the mayor says it is hard to know if they were crimes of hatred or opportunity, many of the immigrants kerry cash because they are undocumented and cannot get paid in but they were happy that the immigrants after they were attacked came to him first and that clearly shows the lines of communication have opened in the towns of that is a very positive thing. i also note though the attack took place in patchog, none of the teenagers actually lived there. they went there because they knew there would be immigrants and they were in east patchgue and other places. to ny want to read another short passage from the trial of jeffrey conroy and this is the beginning of chapter 1.
this is when the only surviving witness of the attack other than the attackers of course, was on the witness stand and the defense lawyers and prosecutors are asking questions about the attack. did you ever see am i come ask william, the lawyer representing jeffrey conroy, the young man who at 17 confessed to stabbing and killing his friend marcelo. did you ever see anyone stat marcelo? no because the second -- i'm sorry, i'm sorry about that. that's fine, the lawyer said and went on to the next question. but it wasn't fined. they couldn't convey his feelings the night that he stayed away thinking what if and the hours that he saw that his actions on the day of the attack. it wasn't fair that the lawyer wanted a simple yes or no. they couldn't describe his fear
or regret. the truth was that he had turned his back momentarily on his friend and the attackers to run for safety. he had called out to lucero to follow him but he took his ground and fought. the truth was that he hadn't seen the knife but he wished he had. when you got to the police precinct did you talk to a detective for an officer right away or did you have to wait, the lawyer continued. i had to wait. >> do you know how long? two or three hours. >> in that two or three hours that you were waiting to speak to the police officer did you learn what happened to your friend? no. okay so when did you learn that? i didn't find out until the detectives approached me. they said they were detectives and the first thing i asked was how is my friend. and what did they say? they said i'm sorry. your friend passed away. he is dead. at this point in the trial, he could no longer hold back his
tears. he wanted to go back to the one-room apartment, shut the door and stay inside with his friend watching tv. he wished he had never gone out that day. if he hadn't come if he said no instead of yes on the afternoon of november 8th, 2008, if he hadn't been so accommodating to his older friend, perhaps lucero would still be alive. he briefly considered turning down the third invitation that day. but in his friend's place he detected a sense of desperation or loneliness. later loja wondered did he know he was going to die that day? did he somehow know he had hours to live and that is why he didn't want to be alone? lucero may not have needed a state your that day for loja knew he couldn't have saved his friend. what lucero needed after the attack was someone to bear a witness. and so here he was. more than 16 months after
bearing witness. and how did you know lucero loja, the mayor asked? only unleashing a flood of memories. loja cleared his throat before asking. i've known marcelo lucero since i was 5-years-old. i want to read that -- i wanted to read that because i think it encapsulates what this book is about. it's about regret and it's about a sense of murder. it's about racism and bigotry, guess but mostly it is about and perfect people and what motivates them and what makes them do what they do. no matter where they are from come from here or south of the border. thank you very much. [applause] i would be happy to take questions if you have any questions. >> is there any discussion on how the schools have changed?
>> i personally have not reported that because the book was very focused on the time this took place but i had a reading in the library and patchouge that she said things had changed and the immigrant students are now getting together. and for example having lunch together in the cafeteria which was not the case before. it was a very divided school. i think part of the reason is the students said that now the english learners are not in their own hallway. they had separate class's and was kind of a separate but equal and as we know that doesn't work. and so, there was no interaction except when the other students had to walk through the gym and
go through the hallway and that's when these things happened and she said that is no longer the case. so that is good news. >> can you tell us a little bit about the immigrants, how they supported themselves and worked. was it agricultural? >> at a certain point now perhaps not so much because the way that the construction industry is that was mostly construction and lawn work where they were. part of the issue is that this is not a wealthy village. this is not upper class people. this was middle class to lower class people. when the immigrants are seen as the employees they can be seen as competitors for jobs as well
and in the economy this took place in 2008 and a lot of investigation into hate crimes and that kind of goes hand in hand, and so that's how they make a living of their mostly. some women work in the homes not unlike what they do in new york cleaning and babysitting. >> i don't know if you heard there is a student group in texas. today they took the program off but what shocked me is the head of the group was latino. his last name was garcia. the student that came up with this thing is latino.
it to me it was shocking knowing it was by a latino that decided this would be a good idea. did you find any heat among the groups you talked to? >> i didn't find self hate but the mother is african-american and the father is puerto rican. what i learned in reporting this book is what i think we know already, it isn't like for example friendship between black and white and sometimes with gay people like my best friend is gay but i don't believe in whatever. so it's kind of with a workable in their own little world because they knew each other and spoke the same language literally and as a newcomer the
person that didn't speak the language wasn't like them. in fact the on and off a girlfriend was from bolivia and she went to the reading in patchogue. she's a sweet girl who moved on. people say a lot of people during the trial said he had a latina friends, he had a black friends. he can't possibly be racist. i'm not a psychologist but i also know from my research on hate crimes that many times they are not motivated by bigotry, they are motivated by young people who are seeking a thrill, for all seekers rather than people that are hateful. and it's kind of rude behavior
that happens usually after drinks or drugs or in this case both. they were smoking pot and had a few beers. i don't think that any one of them alone would have attacked marcelo lucero did it was a group behavior. it was a thing to do. now why would they do it with immigrants and not anybody else? that is the question and i think it had a lot to do with the atmosphere in the county at a time but also the atmosphere in the entire country and beyond. 2008 was a particularly bad year for immigrants all over the world. there were a lot of hate crimes and resentment in part because the economy and in part because it's when people woke up and realized and it was like to are these people and so there was a
lot of reaction all of the world not just in the u.s. and in suffolk county in particular elected officials who are seen throughout the book or really careless and what they said. they talked about illegal aliens and the babies of the immigrants to cross the border so it just became sort of fair game. one of the things i read from a high school the media played a role in this and so i think it is this was the environment in which they grew up. >> you point out in the look that somehow patchogue in a
sense -- there is a healing process going on. it's tragic but there are many other places [inaudible] evin in new york you move away from manhattan and upstate new york defined much more of this sense. when you explored this -- the effect of the rhetoric of hate and immigrant rhetoric, the kind of thing that functions all the time, these kids were saying and it's important to remember they were kids, 16, 17-years-old they probably were repeating things they heard at home and on the radio and actors would say all
the time and we find on facebook boustany story about immigrants and you have ten or 15 people saying exactly the same. so too in extent you've been able to reflect this and get some wisdom over this. what is the trigger that makes someone in this rhetoric to actually go and the gang up with other bodies and chase. >> i want to say several things about this. first of all i think in manhattan we live with this can happen. they do. a few blocks from here is a columbia professor that was attacked recently by a group of young people in harlem because
he was wearing a turban and had a beard. so that happened, what a month ago i think? we got new figures on hate crimes and they are up in the state of new york by 40% and these hate crimes have increased and are primarily fueled by his crimes in new york city and suffolk county. i don't want to alarm you although it is alarming that part of what has happened is that in some places, suffolk county being one of them, there were certain hate crimes classified as vandalism so if you write something awful on the wall of the synagogue which is often the case, that used to the vandalism and now that is a hate crimes of the numbers have gone up in part because of that.
but i think it's embarrassing when you are reading a report that in new york state hit crimes have gone up 40% and they were suffolk county and new york city. so i think we need to be clear that we are not out of the what's just because we live in new york city. the second thing that much to say is difficult for me to answer because i'm not in his head and i will send you will to speak to any of them. i was able to speak to the parents of the families as i said. so it is complicated to know what triggered this action but they had been going on for a long time and had to do with board m and what are you doing
on a friday night in suburbia. if you have nothing to do you can do something else. you don't have to go out hunting people but it had to do with the kind of things everything you pointed out was part of the atmosphere and there was good behavior. nobody called the police and if the police would come they would say it's teenagers, kids. they will be out in no time. there's nothing we can do about it. the justice has come down pretty hard on suffolk county and they've already made changes and they've basically said if you had paid attention to this and had done something with these teenagers, nobody would have died. it's the kind of things when you have schools to allow bullying to go on you know it gets worse but if you confront it
immediately it will stop. it wasn't confronted and allied to the death of marcelo lucero. >> the politicians believe these things and basically the person that is interfering them they call people on their hateful rhetoric but then it is blown off as you are being overly sensitive. but nobody gets back at the fact that new york city, the most liberal 30% increase, nobody hits them back with the fact. >> some people do. >> there is good journalism and there is not so good of journalism. i would hope that my students do
sometimes people come found violence and objective of the with letting people get away with what is wrong. but i try to do myself as a reporter is people tell you we don't like these people because they come at a lot of crime in the neighborhood. the check out the crime statistics. in fact the statistics show that they tend not to commit crimes not because of the war necessarily but because they are here undocumented. they don't want the police walking on the board something has been reported. so these are the things that the reporters are to do. you say here are the numbers. yes. >> as far as the families that
have this population that have come to this town, do they feel and they have a sense of belonging in the community or do they have any sense of this is where the children are raised and where they want to live? >> i think it depends. if you have children, children also this immigration process children have the parents assimilate a great deal. it is the children who become the translators of their life literally. they are the ones that take you by the hand through the school. i certainly did that for my parents and you introduce them to this world and so i think if you have children and your children are already bilingual or prefer english at home this is home for many of them. if you have a good job this is home and if you have a stable relationship it isn't like people that moved from the u.s.
and different cities. if things go well it is home and if it is not coming to have the option to go back to the other city. so i think it depends. when i met him he was the saddest person i ever talked to. he was just completely devastated he was of deep religious faith. when he was a little boy that changed his life in terms of religion, deeply religious. and yet he was completely devastated by this event. he felt like nothing. he felt if he could be hunted down like an animal, if he could see his friend getting killed he couldn't understand it.
but the last time i saw him he was any relationship, she had a job and the person he is with have several children but he was the stepdad. and he seemed if not happy than any better place when i met him. so time can he'll sometimes and people mouton. >> [inaudible] if one could assume that this happens -- >> one thing i found while reporting this, so much i didn't know. writing a book is like getting a ph.d.. one thing i found out is that there is and one state that hasn't had a hate crime against
latinos lately and also historically. they had a history in terms of hate crimes and we just don't know about it. there are some hate crimes that have taken place in other cities and states. not necessarily this haunting beaners situation that gruesome and in groups. so, the 3-cd latino boys are horrified and when i heard about the case my oldest at the time was the age of jeffrey conroy and i couldn't look at him across the table and think that
someone like him committed this crime but i also look at them and think they could be victims, too, right? no one stopped to ask if he spoke english or if he had papers or if he was mexican or not. in fact in just a few minutes before the attack, they attacked another who was a naturalized u.s. citizen from columbia who had been here for more than 30 years. he was working in the restaurant and they attacked him. he ran to the house and the lights went on. he was saved and immediately after that they went on and no one said a word or asked him where are you from and what language do you speak? it was just based on appearance and one say latino that looks