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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.

The Literature of the Latino/a Experience and its Relevance in the
English Classroom
By Manuel Hernandez

( This part of the Essay, For the second half of Prof. Hernandez'position paper, feel free to e-mail him at

The literature of the Latino/a experience in the United States of
America closes the gap on education in the United States. Voices of
concerns have been depicted in newspapers, websites and statistics
across America. On November 30, 2003, Fox television featured a segment
on its series on education to document stories of children with problems
with standardized testing. Even the United States Department of
Education has opened an Office (White House Initiative on Educational
Excellence for Hispanic Americans) that is designing, coordinating and
finding ways to improve the educational excellence of Latino children.
The American educational system is looking for answers and traveling on
a journey of redefining its solutions. An alternative to the teaching of
literature is the integration of the literature of the Latino/a
experience in the English curriculum.
According to the 2000 United States Census statistics, there are 35.8
million people of Latino origin living in the United States mainland.
The ones that migrated to the United States before, during and
immediately after World War II, and those who were born and grew up in
the United States have come out of the melting pot and have become a
vital force developing a voice in American letters today. Latino/a
authors have developed a literary voice of their own and are being
anthologized by mainstream publishing houses like never before. Piri
Thomas, Esmeralda Santiago, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Tato Laviera
and Abraham Rodriguez have become household contemporary names that are
not only being published and read in American schools but have broken
paradigms by interacting and sharing, reading and positively influencing
young adult audiences in schools and colleges in the United States.
The study of literature is the only real academic situation in
which students have to explore issues that are relevant to their
interests. Latino/a literature combines the language, history and the
cultural expression of the Latino/a experience that allows students to
examine these themes and make language their own by making personal
connections with their lives and background information. The characters
in the story, the settings within the conflicts and the poetic language
all express the experiences of the recently arrived, and even portray
universal situations that all teens go through. Themes include education,
identity, varied approaches to race, self-acceptance, self-esteem, peer-pressure,
family, domestic violence, sex, mother-son-daughter; father-son-daughter
relationships, just to mention a few. Effectively used and integrated,
Latino/a literature may improve academic outcomes and provide the
preparation needed for students to enhance their scores on city,
national and state testing requirements.
Although Latinos have been migrating to the United States since
the middle of the 19th century, it is not until the publication of Down
These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas in in 1967 that their presence with a
literary awakening became evident. People from all the Caribbean,
Central and South America came to the United States inspired by "job
opportunities, low air fares and the expectations of those that had
already pioneered the way (The Nuyorican Experience, Eugene Mohr p.25).”
The sudden and unexpected growth of the United States Latino population
brings forth interesting yet unanswered questions. How will present and
future governments address the staggering high school dropout rate
amongst Latinos? What specific educational proposals will be developed
to empower American Latinos to face critical social, economic and
political issues in the up-coming years? What strategies, methodologies
and innovative ideas will be developed to help Latino teens improve
their scores on city, national and state testing requirements? In order
for Latinos to have an active role in the world of cyber-space, high-tech
and global entrepreneurship, the educational system must produce
critical thinkers who can become pro-active participants in society.