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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Address: : 2012 Ernest St. Kissimmee, Florida 34741

Manuel Hernandez was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York in 1963. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and finished a Master�s in Education from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx in 1994. He has coordinated symposiums, produced and coordinated television interviews on the literature written by Puerto Rican and Latino/a writers from the Diaspora. He has done numerous presentations, workshops and seminars on how to integrate latino/a literature in the English classroom. In 2014, he participated in a TedxTalk (Connections) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the author of three books, , Latino/a Literature in the English Classroom (Editorial Plaza Mayor, 2003), The Birth of a Rican (Imprenta Sifre. 2008) and Living the Kingdom with purpose (Imprenta Sifre, 2013). He is a Language Arts teacher at Osceola School District in Florida.

Puerto Ricans in the United States: A Crucial Force in America
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright

According to “Hispanic in the United States”, an updated presentation of the United States Census Bureau, there are 44.3 million people of Hispanic/Latino origin living in the United States mainland. Puerto Ricans who migrated to the United States before, during and immediately after World War II and those who were born and grew up in the United States have decisively become a crucial force in the clear and present development of the nation. The contributions of the Puerto Rican Diaspora to the development of the United States have not come without social, cultural and economic hurdles, but their encounter with education has provided them with a true grasp of America’s institutions.

There was a time when they came and settled down in inner city neighborhoods in New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago and other major metropolitan cities. Just like other immigrant waves before them, they faced socio-economic, educational and cultural dilemmas which came against their desires to contribute and become successful in America. Through time, they have become a legitimate and bona fide component of American society. The United States based Puerto Ricans have made a name for themselves in education, politics, television, film-making, music, literature and in our judiciary system, as a matter of fact. During the last thirty years, they have taken their contributions beyond entertainment and sports and have entered the gateways of the highest court in America.

In the United States House of Representatives, there are three Puerto Ricans whose parents left Puerto Rico after Operation Bootstrap paved the way for thousands of Puerto Ricans to leave the Island. Jose Serrano, Nydia Velazquez and Luis Gutierrez all have served for more than a decade and are influential senior members of Congress. Adolfo Carrion hijo’s political career has reached further heights with his appointment as White House Director of Urban Affairs. This appointment makes him the highest ranking Latino in the Obama administration.

In television and film-making, the contributions have been gallant and distinctive. Juano Hernández was a pioneer in a time when Latinos in Hollywood were non-existent. He acted, produced and directed in more than two-dozen films, and his legacy stands alone even today. The legendary star of the big and small screen, Rita Moreno, is the only performer ever to win the grand slam of Hollywood, a Grammy, an Emmy, an Oscar and a Tony. The first Latino to win an Oscar in 1950, Jose Ferrer, was once selected as the American citizen with the best English diction in the United States. Miriam Colon’s mark in theater began more than five decades ago and is still an inspiration today for those Latinos interested in a career in theater. Jennifer Lopez has redefined the face of the American female protagonist in films. After more than fifteen years in the movie industry, Lopez continues to star on her own and along side Hollywood names such as Snipes, Penn and Harrelson, just to mention a few.

In education, Antonia Pantoja made her most insightful contribution to the Puerto Rican community in the United States in 1958 when she joined a group of young professionals in creating The Puerto Rican Forum, Inc. which paved the way for the establishment of ASPIRA in 1961. There are dissertations written on how her love and hard work not only contributed to opening the doors to millions of Latinos who had been left behind academically but was crucial in the development of Bilingual Education in the late 1960’s.

The Puerto Rican Diaspora has been redefining literature ever since Piri Thomas published Down These Mean Streets in 1967. Thomas’ bestselling autobiography gave birth to a new literature which depicted the failures and successes of the Puerto Rican migration immediately after World War II. Victor Hernandez-Cruz sparked the interest in Nuyorican poetry with Snaps in 1967. Nicholosa Mohr reacted with Nilda (1973), a story of a young girl who comes of age during World War II. The experiences of the revolving door, returned migrant, stranger in a foreign land and the so-called Nuyorican have all been depicted by Puerto Rican writers in the United States. Short stories, poems and essays that explore and recreate the historical and social experiences lived by Puerto Ricans who migrated before, during and after World War II have reshaped the form of American letters. Identity conflicts are examined by writers like Judith Ortiz-Cofer, Aurora Levins-Morales, Tato Laviera, Sandra Maria Estevez and Abraham Rodriguez. Poetry takes a different dimension with Miguel Algarín, Miguel Piñero, Pedro Pietri, Victor Hernandez-Cruz, Louis Reyes-Rivera, Martin Espada, Tato Laviera and Mariposa.

On May 26th, 2009, another Puerto Rican received the greatest opportunity to contribute to the social, historical and political outreach of the United States. Sonia Sotomayor, a Puerto Rican brought up by a single mother from The Bronx was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Obama. Sotomayor was born in and grew up in the Bronx Borough during its toughest times in the 1960's and 1970's. Through true grit and sheer will, she focused on education as the key to her success. Today, all the congressional debates and rhetoric on her appointment are part of history, and Sonia Sotomayor has entered the gates of the highest court in the United States of America.

The Latino population is growing at high-speed, and the Puerto Rican Diaspora accounts for 12% of the largest minority group in the United States. In a world of many voices, Puerto Ricans whisper, articulate and holler but after one-hundred years of searching for an identity, they are being heard and are ready to take their place as a crucial force in American history.