A slow and beautiful melody streams from Robert Bruey’s acoustic guitar as he steps up to the microphone. He clears his throat, and addresses the mourning crowd surrounding him.
“I wrote this song after I heard about this [...] historical inaccuracy,” said the Long Island musician in a somber tone. “Marcelo didn’t run.”
Clear and full of warmth, Bruey’s earthy voice transcends the silence at the vigil held on this biting cold November afternoon.
The vigil, held on November 7, 2010 in Patchogue, NY, commemorated the two-year anniversary of the tragedy that shocked and forever changed the Long Island community. Two years prior, in the middle of the night, Ecuadorian immigrant and longtime Patchogue resident Marcelo Lucero was targeted by a group of seven teens because of his race. The encounter ended in Lucero’s death.
After hearing about the crime, Bruey felt touched on a deep level. It was on that day that the singer-- like many other Long Island residents-- decided to take a stance against hate.
“Hearing the news of Marcelo Lucero losing his life the way he did felt like someone punched me in the stomach,” wrote Bruey in response to the crime. “For the first time in my life, I felt ashamed of my country and the hatred that came to be so close to home.”
Bruey wrote a song entitled “Perdoname Hermano (Forgive Me Brother),” which he performed at both the first and second year vigils in Lucero's honor. The song has also been selected for the soundtrack of Not in Our Town: Light in the Darkness, the upcoming PBS documentary that chronicles the actions taken by Patchogue residents in an effort to heal their community after the murder over the span of two years.
"Hearing the news of Marcelo Lucero losing his life the way he did felt like someone punched me in the stomach. In his photograph I saw a young man smiling in the work place, a birthday cake in front of him and the closeness of his co-workers. Marcelo had a happy, but tired look on his face, as if he had just put in a full day of work. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed of my country and the hatred that came to be so close to home.
'Perdoname Hermano' was written in first person to try and understand what Marcelo felt that night. I wanted to convey the person I felt when I saw his picture for the first time. In this picture came to me a hard worker, a protective brother, a son who missed his mother, and a person full of hope.I chose to thread the words "Perdoname Hermano" (forgive me brother) in Spanish throughout the song, even though I had to ask a friend how to say it. It was my way of letting go of any nationality and saying this to him in the only way I knew how....through song.There are gifts you are given in life and from tragedy love can come. Friends who knew of my song put me in touch with Marcelo’s family. I have since then been honored not only to perform at vigils for Marcelo but also as witness to a family’s grace under the most extreme of conditions. I am proud to know them and to learn from their example."--Robert Bruey, Singer-songwriter