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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: More than Just a Presidential Vote
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright

There has been a lot of talk about how United States based Puerto Ricans can really make a difference in the up and coming Presidential election. According to the 2010 United States Census statistics, there are more than 4 million people of Puerto Rican origin living in the United States mainland. Who can forget the Bush-Gore electoral scuffles for votes in Florida? The winner of the judicial claim in 2000 became the President of the United States thereafter. In 2012, Puerto Ricans have become a strong political and economic voice in many of Florida’s cities, including the top two, Orlando and Miami. The US Puerto Rican population growth is extraordinary and significant to both the GOP and the Obama administration. Nevertheless, they are more than just a Presidential vote and through time have proven that without a doubt.

In spite of the socio-economic conditions encountered by the pioneers of the Puerto Rican migration, they have become a genuine part of American society. The United States based Puerto Ricans have made a name for themselves in education, politics, science, sports, television, film-making, music and literature. During the last thirty years, they have been recognized extensively by American industries and institutions. 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 is already a legend in Congress. He is the leading Democrat on the Subcommittee of Commerce, Justice, State and Appropriations Committee and represents Latinos from the 16th District of the South Bronx. Nydia Velazquez is the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the United States Congress and has been in the House of Representatives since 1993. Velazquez won the 1994 elections with a majority of 90% of the electorate. Luis Gutierrez is the first Puerto Rican in the House of Representatives from the state of Illinois and has served in Congress since 1992.
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 founding 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. Thanks to the courageous work of educators like her that paved the way, on May 26th, 2009, a 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, she has a seat in the highest court in America.
In television and film-making, the contributions have been impressive. In film-making and acting, Juano Hernández was a pioneer in a time when Latinos in Hollywood were practically 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 leaving a footprint in Broadway. For the last twenty plus years, Jimmy Smits’ television and film career have gone from LA Law to NYPD Blue to My Family and other major motion picture roles. 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 alongside Hollywood names such as Snipes, Penn and Harrelson, just to mention a few. Since the turn of the century, Benicio Del Toro and Roselyn Sanchez are quietly making a name for themselves in the mean streets of Hollywood City.

US Puerto Ricans have 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 Pedro Pietri, Victor Hernandez-Cruz, Louis Reyes-Rivera and Tato Laviera. From Miguel Piñero’s 1973-1974 best American play, Short Eyes to the bestseller by Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican (1993), United States based Puerto Rican literature is recognized by American literary critics as an emerging, dynamic and growing-literature which has developed and transformed itself into a diverse and rich body.

US Puerto Ricans have gone beyond talk and have reiterated their commitment to the core values of American society. The statistics speak for themselves, and the tables were turned once to support a Presidential election, but United States Puerto Ricans are more than just a vote and have demonstrated that beyond any reasonable doubt. The 2000 tug of war for votes of Florida was merely a mirror of the prominence of Puerto Ricans in America. Whether it is in sports, music, politics, entertainment and even in NASA where they are recruited actively, Puerto Ricans are not only a vote but role models for other booming Latino communities who are also interested in following the footsteps of those who pioneered the way for Latinos interested in making history today in American society.