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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.

The Passing Away of an Extraordinary Poet: Tato Laviera
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright
(Professor of English at the University of Phoenix PR Campus and English Program Facilitator for the Fajardo School District)

When I heard about the death of Jesus Abraham Laviera, Tato Laviera, I could not help remember the two symposiums that I organized and coordinated and where he was one of the key protagonists. The UPR symposiums celebrated in 1997 and 1998 paved the way for further literary analysis on the literature of the Puerto Rican Diaspora and opened the door for the academic blueprint that gave birth to an undergraduate course at UPR Rio Piedras (English 3285). Today, the course is a requirement for English majors and has also given birth to several graduate courses at the College of Humanities at UPR Rio Piedras.

When I first met Tato Laviera in 1989, I was a 26 year old ESL High School teacher at James Monroe High School in the Bronx, New York. One day, the ESL Program at Monroe invited a Puerto Rican poet, Tato Laviera. All the ESL teachers took their students down to the library for the presentation.
I observed him while he got ready. He was dark-skinned, medium height and had black curly hair and deep brown eyes. He dressed completely in white and looked like a Santeria priest. He came in the library with congas. I was anxious to hear the poet do his thing. When he started reciting his poetry, he read verses in English, Spanish, Spanglish and what he called “el mixturao”. He combined music and verses and closed his eyes as if evoking some supernatural spirit. The students loved what they heard, and I was amazed at their responses. Like never before in my life, I felt my veins sizzling in my bloodstream at the sound of his poetry.

I identified with the message, and I was curious to know who he was and know more about his poetry. Tato and I became friends, and he gave me a list of Latino writers who were writing and performing in the United States and abroad. Next day, I went to the bookstore and bought a few of the books recommended by Laviera.

That was the beginning of a 24 year ongoing journey. I brought him twice to UPR campuses in Rio Piedras, Cayey and Mayaguez and interviewed him for HitNet in New York City. I deeply regret his death and continue to build on his legacy. I recently submitted a new course proposal for the public schools in Puerto Rico, and Laviera is one of the featured writers. Hopefully, our high school students will get to read and study his life and creative work in August of 2014. I join the thousands of people that were inspired by the life and work of Tato Laviera and today remember and celebrate his energy, passion and love for poetry.