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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.

Divided Identities

By Manuel Hernández

When I taught English as a Second Language at James Monroe High School
in the Bronx, New York in 1988, the ESL/FL Bilingual Program invited the
Nuyorican poet, Tato Laviera for a reading presentation. He began by reciting
the classic, "My Graduation Speech" : "How are you? ?Como estas? I don't
know if I'm coming, o' si me fui ya, me dicen caviar I digo a new
pair of converse sneakers." Laviera used English, Spanish, Spanglish and
a variety of sorts to creatively express contemporary issues and ideas such
as racism, language, education, self-acceptance and identity. It was the
first time I had a close encounter with myself through poetry. Later he
explained that he spoke in seven languages; he came from two different worlds
and two expressions, and his poetry was a result of multiple experiences.
Laviera and hundreds of thousands of United States Puerto Ricans intertwine
identities and shift cultural gears in a natural and spontaneuos way.
Divided identities that are not easily understood by Island Puerto
Ricans, Americans and people of other ethnic backgrounds and origins. Another
US based Puerto Rican writer, Aurora Levins-Morales, begins the second stanza
of "Child of the Americas" by declaring that the speaker is a "US, Puerto
Rican Jew." Instead of two shifts, the speaker moves within three whole-grain
identities. According to psychology, human beings have defined and developed
their identities with all the basic essentials by the age of seven. But
external influences such as friends, society and experiences begin to mold
character once one becomes a pre-adolescent. It is at this precise moment
that hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans were lead to the United States
Mainland by parents and relatives. Hundreds of thousands of others were
born in the United States and were reminded by relatives and society that
they were Puerto Ricans and different.
Being different yet extremely successful is what has marked the career
of Marc Anthony. In a concert at Madison Square Garden and televised internationally
by HBO, he said he was proud of being a Puerto Rican and an American. On
the Island, Anthony is a singer "de origen Boricua". For the world, he is
one of the greatest talents of the 21st century. On the Island, identity
is shattered when Puerto Ricans themselves start identifying themselves
as "Mayaguezanos" or "Poncenos". When I worked as a professor of English
at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez in 1997-1998, my colleagues
often reminded me that I was not from Mayaguez and that I was unfamiliar
with the Mayaguez culture.
It is when you move out of the Island and come to the states that you
begin to comprehend that you are a Puerto Rican and that there is a national
identity. A national identity that has nothing to do with the never-ending
political tug of war that occurs on the Island with the leaders of the red,
blue and green. In an interview in Carmen Dolores Hernandez' Puerto Rican
Voices in English, the strong and vibrant voice of the South Bronx writer
Abraham Rodriguez, puts his identity in perspective:
"Of course, I am Puerto Rican. I am also American. I'm both.

It's really stupid for anybody to say that they're completely
Puerto Rican. There isn't a Puerto Rican alive that hasn't

been affected by American culture,... My big deal was
coming to grips with it because I had an identity crisis
for so long." (p.141)
In Sandra Maria Estevez' "Here", the speaker parallels identities:
I am two parts a person
past and present
alive and oppressed
given a cultural beauty
robbed of a cultural identity
Having divided identities has stationed Jennifer Lopez on the big
and small screens all over the world. Her music is the every day viewing
on MTV. Lopez has literally overwhelmed the world media with her immeasurable
talents. Lopez has taken the Island's you are not enough Puerto Rican and
turned it into how much is too much in her favor. History has proved Lopez
and hundreds of thousands of Mainland Puerto Ricans right. I am sure that
many would identify with the last three stanzas of Levins-Morales' "Child
of the Americas":
I am Caribena, island grown. Spanish is in my flesh,
ripples from my tongue, lodges in my hips:
the language of garlic and mangoes,
the singing in my poetry, the flying gestures of my hands.
I am of Latinoamerica, rooted in the history of my continent:
I speak from that body.

I am not african. Africa is in me, but I cannot return.
I am not taina. Taino is in me, but there is no way back.
I am not eurpoean. Europe lives in me, but I have no home


I am new. History made me. My first language was spanglish.
I was born at the crossroads
and I am whole.