Thursday, July 30, 2009

FBI Investigating Hateful Letters sent to Hispanic Businesses in Inwood

From by Cindy Hsu:
Inwood residents are feeling both anger and uncertainty after finding out about the hate letters received by some of the community's Latino business owners.

Yamil Martinez's restaurant, Papasito, is scheduled to open on Dykman Street in September. But he said hateful messages have put a damper on what he always thought would be a joyous time.

"I'm disappointed, angry and scared," Martinez said. "One of my dreams was always to have a Mexican restaurant. My dream is coming true, and I'm actually scared and disappointed. I don't know if we're going to be able to make it."

Martinez and several other owners on the block have been receiving anonymous, threatening letters for approximately one year. The messages have previously referred to them as "vermin pigeons" and call for the closing down of their restaurants.

Other letters contained messages such as "speak English" and "stop wrecking my U.S.A."

Fernando Mateo, of Hispanics Across America, claims the restaurants have been receiving the letters every couple of months, and he believes owners fear the hateful words might soon turn into violence.

"That somebody may come with a machine gun and shoot-up the area, shoot-up the patrons, you know?" Mateo said. "We don't want to wait until it escalates into gunfire."

Jesus Hernandez also owns a restaurant in the area – Mama Sushi. He came to the US from the Dominican Republic at age 14, and worked hard to be able to open his own business seven years later.

Mama Sushi opened eight months ago, and Hernandez said he cannot understand who is targeting his store and the other businesses on the block.

"I don't have just Latin people coming here," Hernandez said. "I have black, I have white I have all kinds of people as customers so I can't point out anybody who would do such a thing."

Mateo said he will be turning some of the letters over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Thursday for analysis. He has also been in contact with the Department of Justice for Human Rights about the threats.

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