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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 One)

by Manuel Hernández

My grandfather came to the United States of America in the winter of 1900. Puerto Ricans began migrating to the United States as back as 1775, but it was not until Americans won the Hispanic American War that their presence as a community in America emerged. He was part of a massive immigration movement inspired by the new American military government of 1898.

Great-grandpa lost half of his property to a Spanish landlord in the hills of an eastern coast town in Puerto Rico, and he welcomed his newly found American friends with open arms. His first-born was forced to drop out of school to help support the family at the age of seven. Manolo sold his mother's famous "papaya" sweets in the morning and worked as a delivery boy in the local bakery in the afternoon. When he turned ten, his parents separated, and his uncle needed help in his farm, so he was sent away and worked like a stubborn mule from dawn to sunset in his uncles plantain field in the steep hills of Naguabo.

With the change of government, a new immigration package was announced through town representatives. There was an Island in the Pacific called Hawaii, and Puerto Ricans were told they could make a fortune and provide for the well being of their families on The Island. There were too many Puerto Ricans in The Island of Puerto Rico, and the unemployment rate was high, they reasoned. Manolo agreed. You only got a ticket if you participated and won a lottery. His cousin won the ticket, but Manolo was persistent and won it back after he challenged him and won it over a deck of cards. He had just turned eighteen and was tired of being enslaved and humiliated by his uncle and father.

It was a cold freezing night when the loud steamboat reached the California coastline. There were about six thousand Puerto Rican men who made the two-week boat trip. They were all lined up like sardines in a can when American soldiers greeted them on the dock. The thousands of flashing lights Manolo saw from inside the boat startled him. The soldiers had rifles and bayonets, and he feared the worst. As he walked down the stairs and into the dock, the stark wind felt like it could cut his skin. He had an old worn sweater, and he felt the cold breeze crawling in every bone of his body. His lips began peeling, his ears felt like solid rock, and his knees trembled like an earthquake. When he looked at the line of the sun in his hands, they seemed to be out of their usual position.

From there, they walked swiftly but steadfastly for about two miles under the guidance and watchful eye of their caretakers. They were taken to giant freight trains. Grandpa was worried. First, the soldiers, then the rifles and now the train. Some of the Islanders started thinking of escaping. He had dreamed of a better life in Hawaii, but he feared for his life. At two in the morning, he and a thousand others got out of the train and ran towards the flashing town lights he had seen hours earlier.

The new immigrants founded a Puerto Rico of their own in California. After many discussions, the local town government decided to let them stay, and grandpa began his adult life working in a farm in California. The salary was a bit higher than what he made in Puerto Rico, but he made the best of his situation and settled down in a rural neighborhood just minutes away from the city. Two years later, he met the lady of his dreams and married a Mexican girl who had ran across the border from Tijuana. He never again would go back to La Isla.