Where’s la raza?

After a three-day recess, the federal trial against the two Shenandoah, Pa., man charged with a federal hate crime stemming from the 2008 beating death of Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala, an undocumented Mexican immigrant.

Derrick M. Donchak, 20, and Brandon J. Piekarsky, 18, face life in prison if found guilty.

During the first week of trial at the William J. Nealon U.S. Courthouse in Scranton, the jury listened to testimony from friends of both of the accused that portrays them using racial slurs when referring to Hispanics, as well as concocting with Shenandoah police officers to create a cover up.

Defense attorneys, James A. Swetz and William Fetterhoff, have questioned each witness’ credibility and recollection of the events that night. Also, they keep on arguing that what happened the night of the attack was product of mixing three factors: youth, alcohol and testosterone.

There has been something missing during the coverage of this trial: la raza. The representative from the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia and me are the only ones who have been present since the beginning on Oct. 4.

Gladys Limón with MALDEF arrived Wednesday to be with Crystal Dillman, Luis Ramírez’ widow, who at least once left the courtroom crying after listening a 911 recording from the night of the attack.

The Hispanic press has been the greatest absence in this federal trial. Not even El Mensajero de PA or La Voz Latina, the two local newspapers claiming to represent Scraton’s Latino community, have covered the case.

There was no mention of the trial on their web sites, as this post was being uploaded.

Somebody that actually showed up was Dr. Agapito López, community activist, who said that the lack of Hispanics in the jury would have an impact in the final verdict.

Later, I went to take a walk through Scranton and came across a Mexican restaurant. There, server Lalo Martínez came to talk and all of a sudden we were already talking about the trial.

He said it worried him there were no latino organizations giving voice to Luis Ramirez and the community in general.

In the following videos you’ll hear what the two of them think about the lack of Latinos in the entire process.

Remember to visit our pitch page on spot.us, where we’re fundraising to pay for the coverage of this collaboration between this site and LatinaLista.net. It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to do it and you can even contribute donating that time and not necessarily money.

Finally, follow us on twitter @newsgus, @latinalista, hash tags #luisramirez, #immigration


About Gustavo Martínez Contreras

was born in Texas, brewed in Mexico City, seasoned in the Mexico-United States border, aged walking the streets of Philadelphia. He had a short-lived stint eating grits, fried chicken, and peaches in Atlanta. He later became a béisbol writer for El Diario de Nueva York. He has written about immigrant communities in English, Spanish, and some Spanglish. Although he does not have a shelf full of awards, Gustavo has received thank you notes and hugs from people who have trusted him with their stories. His work has appeared in Voices of New York, El Diario/La Prensa, Dallas’ Al Día, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Weekly, Radio Bilingüe, Latina Lista, Spot.us, among others. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
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