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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 New Immigrants: Latinos in New York City
By Manuel Hernandez

Puerto Ricans have one of the highest rates of emigration in the world. According to the United States 2000 Census, there are approximately 3.5 million people of Puerto Rican origin living on the United States mainland. The history of the Puerto Rican migration dates back more than one hundred and fifty years. The number of Puerto Ricans who migrated to the United States was greater than the rest of the Islands in the Caribbean and much greater than those Latinos arriving from Central and South America because of Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States which granted Puerto Ricans the right to enter and exit the United States. With the trading of raw materials from “La Isla” to cities along the eastern seaboard and political events fired up by Spanish colonialism in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans experienced immigration from as early as 1860. The early immigrants were mostly political exiles who opposed Spanish rule on the Island. After the historical events of 1898, the faces of the Puerto Rican migration changed. The influx of working-class Puerto Ricans continued to flow but those working on farms paved their way to New York too.
Today the Puerto Rican migration to New York City has come to a halt. The large numbers of Puerto Rican migrants have been reduced to a minimum. In the 1990’s, young, successful and retired Puerto Ricans from that first migratory wave moved out of New York, bought homes in Long Island, Florida or moved back to The Island. The faces of the new New York immigrants come in different colors and from different countries. Latinos from Central and South America have overflowed The Big Apple were their presence. The numbers are overwhelming and speak for themselves.
In the New York City public schools, Latinos account for approximately 38% of all students. But for too many Latinos, the public educational system is a hurdle to high for them to jump. The current Latino high school dropout rate is 26%, three percent higher than African-Americans and ten percent higher than Whites. The economic conditions are disastrous when compared to their African-American and White counterparts. The poverty rate of Latino children born into poverty rate is higher than 70%, and the unemployment rate is close to 14%.
Statistics from the Citizen’s Committee for Children reveal a grim reality. The status of education for Latinos in New York City is in a state of crisis! If nothing is done to deal with the present situation, it will only get worse in the up-coming years and decades. The United States Census Bureau expects the number of Latinos to double in the next 27 years. Imagine the economic and educational impact of those numbers in New York City in 2030. While the numbers continue to grow, less is being done to affront the current educational crisis in New York City.
The importance of education is often under minded by those who have the power to implement strategies and initiatives to improve the current high school dropout rate. Without a high school diploma, Latinos are prevented from obtaining a college education and a prospective career. The new millennium promises to open new windows of opportunity in the United States. But the educational system has failed to meet the particular demands and interests of Latinos; this works against those who want to follow the footsteps of a minority who has become successful in a world locked out to them in the past. These doors have opened because of their commitment to hard work, perseverance and education. How can these doors remain open if education serves a community that grows in number but diminishes in knowledge?
The current crisis must be tackled in different fronts. First, parents must be taught about the importance of a higher
education. Those who are uninterested must accept responsibility and provide the support to address their children’s greatest need: education. The outcome for Latino parents may be too costly to ignore. The needs of a cyber-technological New York City cannot be met by the ever growing but un-educated Latino community. Common sense leads us to believe that an advanced society will serve itself from the better prepared and educated. There will be less menial jobs for those who do not meet the demands of “the city that never sleeps”.
Second, there needs to be more hands-on involvement from the well-educated Latino community. If those parents, big brothers and big sisters living in impoverished neighborhoods are not serving as role models, then the few and proud Latinos that have left must go back to their communities and serve as such. It is not just a matter of giving back but being back. A very good friend and Pastor spoke to me once about the “ministry of presence”. So many of us have moved out and have forgotten what it took for us to get an education. The well-known Latino writer, Piri Thomas said once that it is a “matter of dignity”. Living comfortable has provoked many to alienate themselves from their roots. One cannot ignore reality. Task forces served their purpose in the past. We all must serve ours now!
There are thousands of Latino English teachers that can help those incoming Latino teens with language proficiency problems. There are thousands of Latino professionals in health that can dedicate time to provide health care and education. These are not new ideas, but the fast pace life of New York City has stripped us from volunteerism and charity work. During the twentieth century, pioneers of the Latino immigration movement organized themselves and worked for the benefit of their community. It is time to get back to basics. It took the Puerto Rican community in New York almost one hundred years to find its place in American society. The new immigrants cannot afford to wait all that time. It is in our hands to break the cycle