Jose Sucuzhanay was walking in New York with his brother when they were attacked by assailants yelling anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs
CUENCA, Ecuador — An Ecuadorean immigrant beaten to death in New York in an apparent hate crime was carried to his grave on Saturday, Dec. 20 in a town that has seen thousands of others seek their fortunes abroad.
Julia Quintuna, the mother of Jose Oswaldo Sucuzhanay, sobbed as she embraced her 10-year-old grandson Brian, one of Sucuzhanay’s children.
Sucuzhanay (pronounced Soo-KOO’-suh-neye), a 31-year-old real estate agent, was attacked by a group of men who kicked and beat him with an aluminum baseball bat, shouting anti-Latino and anti-gay slurs as he walked arm in arm with his brother near his Brooklyn home on Dec. 7, police said. He died after five days in a coma.
New York City police are still searching for three suspects, and the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the incident.
"My heart is broken, and so is that of all my family," the victim’s brother German said during a funeral Mass in the cathedral of the southern town of Cuenca. Sucuzhanay’s coffin was scattered with roses and covered with the Ecuadorean flag.
"The brutal killing of my brother Oswaldo is the result of xenophobia, of homophobia and racism that our compatriots are experiencing in these times," he said, calling on Ecuador’s government to demand that U.S. authorities solve the crime.
Many people in southern Ecuador have relatives in the United States, and the attack caused a wave of fear.
Carmen Guaman, 37, said her husband works in construction in New York.
"I tell him to be careful that he doesn’t go out much in the streets because the same thing could happen to him," she said.
U.S. lawmakers and Hispanic groups have denounced Sucuzhanay’s death, saying recent slayings of Latino immigrants lend new urgency to calls to pass new hate crimes laws.
Sucuzhanay’s killing follows the deaths of Luis Ramirez, 25, a Mexican immigrant who was beaten to death July 14 in eastern Pennsylvania, and Marcelo Lucero, 37, an Ecuadorean immigrant who was fatally stabbed Nov. 8 on New York’s Long Island.
"First it was my brother, then another compatriot," said Lucero’s sister Isabel, who attended Sucuzhanay’s funeral. "Who will be next?"
Prosecutors said seven teenagers charged in Lucero’s assault had set out to attack a Hispanic person, while three teenagers linked to Ramirez’s death also face charges of ethnic intimidation.
There were 830 Hispanic victims of hate crimes last year in the United States, up from 819 in 2006 and 595 in 2003, according to FBI statistics.