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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.

A Typical Californio Boy (Chapter 4)

by Manuel Hernández

They arrived in New York City in the hard cold winter of 1920. Thanks
to a cousin, Manolo, Maria and Joey found an apartment on 110th Street
off Third Avenue in Manhattan. It was a block of two-story tenements
with brick fronts. Their apartment was a two-room second floor walk-up.
It had a bedroom, a kitchen-living room and a bathroom. Joey complained
about sleeping in the living room, but his father guaranteed they would
move into a better place soon. Maria was silent but felt she was living
in a fish tank. Every time she argued with Manolo about New York, he
would remind her of the better opportunities that existed for Joey. She
decided to keep quiet and hold on to the love she had for her family.
Manolo bought books for Joey, not many but enough to spark his son’s
interest. As he became a good reader, his father continued to purchase
books for him. Joey found a job in the cigar industry and was introduced
to a group of recently arrived Puerto Rican workers who worked rolling
tobaccos and read books and talked politics. A lot of the stuff they
talked about was unreal to him, but he found their conversations amusing.
They often tried to pull him into the debates about whether or not
Puerto Rico should be a state, independent or stay as a territory of the
United States of America, but Joey could care less. He was an American,
he told them, and they respectfully laughed at his response. The
atmosphere at work compensated for the never-ending discussions between
his parents at home.
Manolo found a job in an Italian restaurant earning a dollar and
fifteen cents a day. He washed dishes, mopped the floors and did
everything in the restaurant. He sometimes worked twelve hours a day but
got paid for eight. For his overtime hours, Manolo’s boss provided him
with meals, which Maria and Joey devoured during the cold and freezing
winters of the early 1920’s.
It was during the hot and humid summer of 1923 that Joey fell in love
with the wrong girl. She was Italian and the daughter of Manolo’s boss,
the owner of Manhattan’s finest Italian restaurant. One day, Joey just
happened to go by his father’s job to give him a message from his mother
when he saw her for the first time. Alma looked like an Italian goddess
with radiant light green eyes and natural blonde hair and had a very
sensuous body. Her legs were ultimately perfect and her waist seemed
like a road with never-ending curves. Her eyes were deeply expressive
but had a profound sadness to them. Joey was twenty-one and had never
had a girlfriend before. She was fresh out of high school and helped her
father take care of the family business. She seemed out of reach, but
Joey won her heart with his Latin charm.
Alma’s father was strongly against the relationship, and he threatened
to fire Manolo. He liked him but never imagined his daughter married to
a son of a Latino. He advised Manolo to tell his son to stay away or
else. In the meantime, Joey and Alma met secretly. They were madly in
love and decided to see each other against their parents’ will. Little
did Alma know that her father had promised her to the son of the
wealthiest Italian in New York City. Alma’s father had lost most of the
family money in a gone wrong financial deal with a bootlegger in Long
Island. This new partnership deal would stabilize his financial outreach
and put an end to his anxieties. Someone had to pay the price in the
family. It seemed that Alma was in an abyss, and Joey dived right into