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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 5)

by Manuel Hernández

Joey and Alma planned to elope. Alma’s father would never approve of
the relationship, and they loved each other too much to break up. They
had met secretly in parks and shopping centers, but they wanted to marry,
live together, have children, be happy, and it was impossible for them
to continue seeing each other like this. Alma’s father, Mario Capone,
the Italian entrepreneur, was well known in Manhattan, and they feared
to be recognized by one of his friends or associates. Mr. Capone had
broken the news to Alma about her up and coming wedding to the son of
the wealthy Louie Righetti, and she was devastated. He had promised Mr.
Righetti that she would marry his son, Louie Jr., the sole heir of the
Righetti financial empire, but Alma kept quiet because her father never
allowed his family to have a word or say in his decisions.
Joey convinced his soul mate that California was the right place
for them to begin a new life. He had become an excellent cigar roller
and was trained and prepared to begin his own tobacco trade business.
The trade of his half-brothers from The Island had found a space in his
heart. When his compatriots observed his determination to learn the
trade, they reminded him of his Puerto Rican roots. It was in his blood,
they said. Joey laughed, but this time was thoughtful about their
It didn’t make sense to him. Joey’s Puerto Rico was all in
telegrams, newspapers and stories about a great-uncle and a farm in a
nightmarish mountain that his father never forgot. It was a fantasy
island to him. The more his co-workers spoke about The Island, the more
interest he gained in experiencing it. California was his birthplace and
the land of his upbringing. He had left friends and relatives behind,
but he felt like there was a piece of him that was still missing.
Maria knew about her son’s relationship and wrote a letter to her
father, Don Pablo. She had grown tired and weary of her marriage with
Manolo and saw her son’s dilemma as an opportunity for both of them.
Manolo had begun visiting local pubs and was too interested in “la
vecina”. Maria knew he was cheating and sleeping around again.
Don Pablo’s reply came three weeks later. He never liked Manolo and
loved his daughter, but he did not want any daughter of his leaving her
husband, but he was willing to help Joey escape from New York. Maria
read the letter with tears in her eyes. There was no escape for her.
Joey received the news with mixed emotions. Deep down inside his heart,
he knew how much his mother had suffered, and he wanted to go to
California but didn’t want to leave his mother in New York. He was
uncertain about his future. He had witnessed the daily shouting and
verbal abuses of his father, and he stayed quiet out of respect towards
his father, but he also felt that Manolo had gone too far.
Alma was emotionally on the edge. She was formally committed to marry a
man she did not love. She was torn between the respect she had for her
father and the love she pledged for Joey. It was too much to handle. The
wedding was in six months, and Louie Jr. already wanted more than just
hugs and kisses. Manolo did not like the idea of having another man
fondling his Italian beauty queen. Alma’s emotional storm had turned her
into an extraordinary gorgeous woman. Manolo had to decide soon. He
started exploring the possibility of moving to “La Isla”.
It was during the current course of events in his life that Joey met
Manny. Joey was taking a course in English Literature during the
evenings. His love for literature had developed immeasurably, and he
wanted to read more about Shakespspeare, Milton and Shaw. But Manny was
a non-traditional teacher who transformed literature into a reality that
went beyond ordinary situations. His students loved him, but his peers
disliked his freestyle way of teaching the classics. Manny felt he was
ahead of his time, but Joey had observed an inner peace in his professor
that he had not seen or experienced elsewhere. At this point in his
life, he needed advice from someone who lived what he needed the most:
inner peace