Rosario Lucero last saw her son, Marcelo, when he left the village of Gualaceo, Ecuador, for the United States at the age of 22.
Ever since, she'd been begging him to move back home. And every year, he'd say he wanted to, but never seemed to make it.
Now Marcelo Lucero is finally coming home, in a coffin. Police say the 38-year-old immigrant was stabbed to death Saturday night in Patchogue when seven teenagers attacked him. Suffolk police have labeled it a hate crime targeting Latinos.
"The pain is so great, there aren't words to describe what I feel," Rosario Lucero said in Spanish yesterday by telephone from her home in Gualaceo on the death of the second of her four children.
Two others, Joselo and Catalina, are also on Long Island. The fourth, Isabel, lives in Ecuador.
Rosario Lucero said Marcelo called her every week at her home in the village outside the city of Cuenca. While saying he wanted to return home, he also noted there was very little work.
"He would say, 'What am I going to do there?'" she said.
Rosario Lucero recalled that her son told her about the latest trials and tribulations of life in America, how his jobs were going, when he got sick, how he missed his home country. He regularly wired her money to help make ends meet in the impoverished South American nation.
"My son was very good with me," she said. "He wasn't some kind of animal to kill. We are human beings."
She said she never wanted him to leave Ecuador in the first place, and that she worried for his safety in the United States.
"I was afraid. I told him to take care of himself," she said, adding that "they don't like Latinos" in the United States.
As she became overcome with grief, her daughter Isabel took the phone. "It's a horror," she said. "Only the mentally sick could do something like this."
Rosario Lucero said she wants only two things now: that the authorities "do justice" to the accused teenagers, and that her son's body be sent back to Ecuador for a Christian burial.
A funeral is planned this week in Patchogue, and Marcelo's body will be flown home afterward, Latino community leaders said.
Rosario Lucero will be getting her son back, only in a way she never imagined.
"I won't see him alive again," she said.