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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.

Puerto Ricans in New York City

A Book Review
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 population on the Island is approximately 3.8 million. About half of the total Puerto Rican population lives outside of the Island. 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 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 Borinquen, 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.
According to the introduction in Pioneros, the Puerto Rican community grew

from 1,600 to 135,000 people from 1910 to 1945. The numbers are overwhelming and speak for themselves. The bilingual edition of Pioneros published by Arcadia comes alive with vivid portraits of those who pioneered and paved the way. The images reflect the characters, settings and drama of the great Puerto Rican migration. The pages also present relevant documents such as steamship tickets, newspaper headlines, U.S. Customs identifications, lists of passengers, passports, magazine advertisements, letters, programs and other documents, which shed light on the lives and activities of the Puerto Ricans of the time.
The book is divided chronologically and thematically. It begins with the means of transportation used by the early travelers, followed by the faces of the pioneers of the first decades of the 20th century. The third chapter focuses on family and neighborhood life. The organizing for social and political participation takes center stage in chapter four followed by the cultural life and entertainment of the first settlers in chapter five. The book completes its visual representation by presenting the migration, the world wars and the airborne migration.
This enduring collection of images from the Archives of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College at CUNY facilitates the study and analysis of the history of the United States Puerto Rican community when it was merely beginning to contribute to New York's social, political, cultural and economic life. The book is a mutual collaboration between two New York historians, Félix Matos-Rodriguez and Pedro Juan Hernández, director and archivist of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter. This collection is a pioneer in its own merit because it is the first collection to bring forth a thorough and complete visual representation of the pioneers of the time. The book takes into consideration the visual orientation of our children and young adults. In a time when the eye is being fed like never before, Pioneros captivates and educates in a natural and delightful way. The book is a must for every educator and historian interested in American/Hispanic/Latino studies.

"Aquí se habla español, estás en Puerto Rico?"
By Manuel Hernandez

Puerto Ricans on the Island take their Spanish seriously. A couple of weeks ago,
I was buying groceries with my son at a Supermarket in San Juan. We were speaking English, Spanish, Spanglish, and SpanEnglish as the great AmeRícan poet, Tato Laviera would say because my Nuyorican background allows me to code-switch whenever I feel like doing so. All of a sudden, a middle-aged man wearing a Yankee baseball hat and using a pair of Converse sneakers, who cried out to us, "Aqui se habla español, estás en Puerto Rico" confronted us. He quickly moved his shopping cart away from us before we could react to his statement. I have encountered this situation more than a dozen times in different places on the Island. From La Sultana del Oeste to La Ciudad Caridura, "El Difícil" as our grandparents called it is still a difficult language for native speakers of Spanish to listen to in Puerto Rico.
Hundreds and possibly thousands of monolingual Puerto Ricans are mortified that in their Island there is a growing and diversified minority that speaks a language that they do not completely understand. After one hundred plus years of Puerto Rico-United States relations, there is still a resistance to the speaking and teaching of English in Puerto Rico. It makes many Boricuas feel uncomfortable to hear English in the beaches, malls, concerts, hotels, restaurants and historical sites. They whisper, mumble and complain when conversations they do not understand are held in their presence. They get angry when they come across English language stations on cable television and radio.
In reality, the middle-aged man's reaction was natural. Puerto Rico is an Island that has Commonwealth Government with strong political, cultural and economic ties to the United States, but the main language of Puerto Rico is Spanish. Furthermore, one of the important factors that identify a nation is its language. According to recent studies, about fifteen to twenty percent of the Puerto Rican population is bilingual. Many Boricuas on the Island are apprehensive about English. Why? Hostility and oppression towards a foreign language has been part of human nature for years. In the 1980's and 1990's, the English Only movement in the United States promoted the speaking and teaching of the English language throughout the Continent. When the contrasts between the majority and minority collide, fear in the death or destruction of the other takes over.
A language is a way of living, an essential element in defining a culture and its people. Through language, we master our reality and the most intimate emotions are revealed to us. When a language is imposed upon a nation, it creates unexpected and undesired reactions. Many on the Island feel like one of the founders of the Nuyorican poetry movement, Sandra Maria Estevez, states in her poem "Here": "I speak the alien tongue." There is no doubt that English is a universal language, but many Islanders believe that it has been imposed upon their daily lives.
The Puerto Rican government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in professional staff development and new books every year in attempting to get students to learn English, but many graduate from high school without mastering the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. The statistics at universities and colleges are alarming. Approximately seventy percent of the students that are accepted at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus score below average in the ESLAT (English as a Second Language Achievement Test) on the College Board Examination. Many English teachers and university professors on the Island find themselves teaching a language students do not want to learn.
Puerto Rico will continue to be a Spanish-speaking nation with an ever-growing and dynamic bilingual population. Puerto Ricans on the Island have embraced and ingrained the great majority of the American cultural expressions. Millions of Boricuas view American movies every day, listen to American music, surf on the Internet, eat at McDonald's at least twice a week, buy Wrangler and Levi's jeans and vacation at Disney World at least once in a lifetime. My middle-aged friend expressed ignorance and a monolinguistic attitude, but he walked around with a baseball hat from America's baseball team and a pair of sneakers from the classic American sneaker. Fear of English only expresses the majority's inability to understand that English is enriching the Puerto Rican culture in ways many fail to comprehend. The influx of English is an asset to the Puerto Rican culture, and fear should be eradicated from the mainstream. "Aquí se habla español" I would add, "y el inglés tambien."