Hofstra University’s Center for Civic Engagement presented a series of events on Wednesday Oct. 23, 2013 for the Day of Dialogue. “I came from Cuba in 1980 off the Mariel boatlift,” said newspaper reporter Mirta Ojito, as she began her event on immigration.
During the event, the Pulitzer Prize Winner discussed her book Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town. Her book revealed the controversial issue of the Marcelo Lucero murder, an Ecuadorian immigrant of Patchogue, Long Island who was the victim of a hate crime.
Ojito said hate crimes have increased against Hispanic males in 2003 and 2007. These crimes are typically committed by young men travelling in groups and labeled as ‘thrill seekers’. The attackers’ actions were described as ‘hunting beaners’; a racial slur associated with Latinos derived from the Hispanic dish, rice and beans. Lucero’s aggressors admitted that attacking Latinos was a weekly source of entertainment for them. Lucero’s death symbolizes how broken the immigration system is; some immigrants have limited opportunities, and are dependent on cheap labor to survive.
“The term ‘illegal alien’ is used and abused” said Ojito, after explaining the connection of hate crime and the economy. “Immigration impacts everyone everywhere, no matter where you live,” she added.
“Immigration actually helps the flow of the economy and being that America is filled with immigrants, not just of Hispanic descent; we should be able to embrace all of them.”
Ojito discussed how she wrote the book as a reporter. “Reporting was the best experience when writing the book,” Ojito replied to her son in the audience after he asked what her favorite part of writing the book was.
Hofstra University Student Reporter, Claudia Balthazar asked, “Where did you find your sources and how did you know they were valid?” Ojito responded by saying that the police offered her majority of the information, especially on the murdered victims of hate crimes. She explained how so much information is available to you if you just ask.
Ojito continued to speak about the process of reporting. “I don’t like to record. My objective is to get the story out,” she said. She went on to talk about the importance of making the sources feel comfortable enough to talk to her. It took two days for Lucero’s mother to completely open up to Ojito when she visited the slayed man’s home in Ecuador. His mom gave Ojito old letters written by him to her. She talked about how Lucero built that home in order for him to return when he was ready. Yet, he was never able to enjoy the wooden floors and entertainment system he blue printed for builders. Ojito allowed the families to understand that she really cared about their feelings and was interested in what they had to say. “You want a full story, a story that is true,” Ojito said.
An important tip the Hunting Season author gave is that, reporters must always triple check their information to make sure it’s accurate. After completing the rough draft of her book, she allowed the sources that she interviewed to look over the information to determine if it was accurate. If they did not believe it was acceptable, she would go back and edit the information.
Hofstra’s CCE celebrated its 12th Anniversary of Day of Dialogue yesterday, with a series of speakers in multiple fields. Mirta Ojito, the Cuban immigrant, engaged the audience in a discussion that informed college students about some of the disadvantages in the American immigration system.
-Davetta Belton, Secretary