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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 Birth of a Puerto Rican
By Manuel Hernandez copyright@2006

Manny and Son

He came to the United States of America in the blizzard winter of 1900.
Puerto Ricans began migrating to the United States as far back in time
as the American Revolutionary War, but it was not until Americans won
the Hispanic American War, and the Island of Puerto Rico became a U.S.
territory that their presence as a community on United States mainland
emerged. The new American military government installed in Puerto Rico
in 1898 facilitated the slow but steady migration movement.

Manolo's father lost ownership of his property in 1880 to a Spanish
landlord in the hills of an eastern coastal town in Puerto Rico called
Naguabo, and he welcomed his newly found American friends with open arms.
Don Manuel was anxious to get his "finca"back and became an ally of the
recently appointed authorities. Because of the family's financial
decline, young Manolo was asked to drop out of school to help support
the family. The boy ran up and down the neighborhood promoting and
selling his mother's candies and during the weekends he worked as a
courier in the barrio's bodega.

Don Manuel never got his finca back from the Americans. The new
government was accompanied by a group of Americans called capitalists,
and one of them bought the 120-acre finca at a discount price from the
outgoing Spanish landlord. Shortly after, he went bankrupt. Manolo's
parents separated, and a great uncle needed help in his farm in the
steep Rio Blanco Hills in Naguabo, so he was sent there and worked like
an enslaved horse from dawn to sunset. Even with the abolition of
slavery, the boy's uncle practically owned the lives of more than fifty
mulattos which Uncle Saul hit with a horse's whip every time they took a
break or sat down during the tormenting six-day fourteen hour working
week. He was just another mouth to feed and was not discriminated
against when Uncle Saul one day caught him taking a quick break and
threw the thick and greasy whip at him with all his strength. The boy's
back was split open. His aunt ran with him to the local hospital and got
him patched up and ready for work the next day. That was the last time
he ever sat down while he worked at his Uncle's ranch.

With the change of government, a new immigration package was announced
through local town representatives. There was an Island, much like
Puerto Rico, they said, and territory in the Pacific called Hawaii, and
Puerto Ricans were told that they could make a fortune and provide for
the well being of their families there. The Hawaii's Sugar Corporation
was looking for cheap labor throughout the recently acquired U.S.
territories, and friendly recruiters promised comfortable traveling
accommodations for the trip and good jobs and a promising future once
the migrants arrived and settled.

Manolo was in town running errands for Uncle Saul, and he walked over to
the town plaza when he heard the news. He had turned eighteen and was
tired of being humiliated, enslaved and abused by Uncle Saul. This was
perfect for an escape. He listened carefully as they explained about the
lottery. It was a system where men were chosen to go to Hawaii for
their job skills. There was a quota and a week later, Manolo's ticket
was not chosen, but his cousin won the ticket, and one-day when he got
drunk, Manolo challenged him over a deck of cards and won it back.

In the late Island tropical winter of 1900, 200 men left Puerto Rico en
route to Hawaii. In the two-week journey by ship to New Orleans, by
train across land to San Francisco, and by ship again to Hawaii, the
passengers suffered severe shortages of water and food, only 188 made it
alive to the San Francisco coastline. The survivors looked like living

It was a thunderous and rainy night when the loud and noisy steamship
hit the dock. The Puerto Rican migrants were all lined up like sardines
in a can when three hundred American troops greeted them on the boat's
platform. The soldiers had stifling bayonets, and Manolo was scared to
death. As he walked down the ship's broken wooden stairs and down into
the port, the freezing wind felt like it could cut his skin. He had an
old worn sweater, and he felt the chilly breeze crawling in every bone
of his body. His lips began peeling, his ears were like solid rock, and
his knees trembled like an earthquake. Although he was not superstitious,
his aunt had taught him to stare at the palm of his hands for good luck
and direction. When he looked at the line of the sun in his hands, they
seemed to be out of their usual position.

From there, the migrant corpses walked for about two miles under the
conspicuous eye of the soldiers. They were taken to giant freight trains.
First the troops, then the rifles and now the trains. Manolo was
worried. At two o'clock in the morning and while the soldiers slept
profusely, he and sixty-nine others jumped off the train and with a
compass ran north until early in the morning they reached a small
California town. They never made it to Hawaii.

After five months of intense and often heated discussions, debates and
public hearings about whether the so-called Porto Ricans, as the press
called them, should stay or sent back to Puerto Rico, the town council
allowed the migrants to stay as long as they agreed to stay away from
the town and work in the towering cornfields owned by the Mayor himself.
They did not want any trouble and made them swear to keep away from the
city limits or else. The new migrants founded a Puerto Rico of their
own in three former barn houses where they rested and slept after the
long twelve hour working days. The salary was five cents more than what
Manolo made in Puerto Rico, and he worked for five days only, but he
made the best of his situation because he did not want to go back to
Puerto Rico. Going back to work for Uncle Saul was simply out of the

He noticed her at church. Between the singing and worshipping, Manolo
dazed at a young and attractive girl. Maria was a beautiful Christian
girl. The pastor had strict seating arrangements. Men and women sat in
different aisles of the temple. She was very well guarded and protected,
and Maria's parents sat her in between them, making it practically
impossible for him to get a look at her. But he stared at her when she
got up to sing and pray and could not avoid noticing her rocking hips
behind her pink dress. He thought they were simply enchanting.

She was fifteen years old, and he was twenty, but he could care less.
She was olive-skinned, five-foot three inches tall with river black eyes,
a guitar-like body and long brown silky hair. Maria was a Mexican girl,
and her father was the mayordomo of the Mayor's ranch. She was the
oldest of seven sisters and the prettiest according to Manolo. There was
no way he could get close to her, so he decided to befriend the girl's
father. Don Juan Feliciano was a stern and stubborn man, but Manolo was
persistent and little by little earned the respect of the girl's father.
He ran errands for him and was the first man on the job in the morning.
In the meantime, he had been able to get eye contact and a smile from
her in church, and he knew that she too liked him.

The Puerto Ricans got all they needed at the ranch. Don Feliciano was a
tough but fair administrator. As long as they did their work, all was
well. The Mayor provided them with food, drinks and monthly social
events. A doctor came around twice a year for routine physical check-ups.
It was at one of those parties that Manolo finally got the chance to
speak to Maria. They spoke for about an hour, and there was no doubt in
his mind that this was the girl that he wanted to marry. Maria was an
innocent young girl, and Manolo convinced her that he would grant her
more liberty and freedom than her father. He lied, but he wanted to kiss
her, hold her and get a hand on her smooth-looking breasts and plumpy
sightseeing hips.

Manolo worked side by side Don Feliciano and did everything he could to
please the old man. It was just a matter of time before he could ask him
for the girl's hand. One day while they sat down together in the shade
after a long day's work, Manolo took advantage of the old man's good
mood and broke the news:
"Don Feliciano, I'd like permission to have your daughter's hand."
"What! Well, I don't know. She's only fifteen. "Tu eres un viejo"
"I'm twenty."
"Manolo you're a good man, hard-working and responsible, but I think
we should talk about this later."
"No problem."
The old man was not convinced, but Manolo was enthusiastic about the
thing. He needed a woman, a wife and a family. After months of mild and
sometimes heated discussions, Don Feliciano allowed Manolo to talk to
Maria after the church services. This was not the best of arrangements,
but he knew that in due time, Maria would be his for keeps. After
another six months of courtship, Don Feliciano granted her hand.

Manolo and María were married on December 27, 1903. It was a typical
Puerto Rican-Mexican American wedding. There were about three hundred
guests. Invitations were sent to relatives in Puerto Rico. Only a couple
made the long ship ride to attend the wedding. It was a surprise, and
Manolo fantasized at the thought of seeing his parents again. But much
to his dismay, Uncle Saul and his aunt walked down the port dock. He
swallowed hard and hugged him and his loving aunt. Manolo made an
extreme effort to bury the pain that he carried in his heart. He still
had the one-foot scar across his back. This was a time of joy, and he
did not want to spoil the occasion. His parents sent him a deed to a
small farm in the forsaken hills in Naguabo, Puerto Rico. He politely
received the papers, which granted him ownership of a one-acre lot in a
rocky and uphill territory in the so-called Rio Blanco Hills, but he
knew that he would never again go back to Puerto Rico.

Maria was an hour and a half late to the wedding, but she made it, and
Manolo's stomach twisted and turned when the wedding music announced the
bride. The church was packed. All the Puerto Ricans celebrated. He had
married the mayordomo's daughter, and his compatriots saw it as a sense
of relief. Manolo would be in charge, they thought after Don Feliciano's
death. The old man had been complaining of chest pains lately, and the
Puerto Ricans were getting tired of his bullish ways. It was a gathering
of sorts, and Manolo had to break up a couple of shuffles between his
buddies and the Mexicans. They finally were able to head out to their
honeymoon. The Mayor was kind of enough to allow them to spend a few
days at his summer cottage near the sea. Manolo finally got his woman.

Manolo always wanted an old-fashion girl, but it meant that he would
have to work harder. He carried the financial burden of the wedding for
months and was deeply in debt. His father-in-law did not improve his
working conditions, and his fellow Puerto Ricans started to call him a
traitor. Don Feliciano got healthier and stronger, and he did not seem
close to death at all. Thirty days after the wedding, and Maria gave
Manolo the good news; she was pregnant and quit her job at the ranch.
Her belly started jumping during the night, and he barely slept three
hours each night. Her mood changes and cravings were getting to him, and
he was getting tired of not being able to sleep with her every night.
It was getting hectic, and Manolo was already thinking of going back to
Puerto Rico, but the idea of becoming a father and his need for Maria
got him through difficult times, turmoil and hardship.

The boy's birth did not come without pain. Maria's pregnancy went beyond
the expected nine months. Exactly twenty-one days after Maria's nine-month
of pregnancy, Manolo heard his wife shouting:
"Oh Manolo, it's the baby," cried María with thick tears in her eyes.
"What?" He shouted.
"Mi amor, I think it's him. Oh Dios mio! I can't take the pain."
"María hold on. Let me get the horses."
"Manolo. I can't wait. Busca a mama."

After a grueling seventy-two hours of child labor, he was born. Everyone
on the ranch celebrated his birth. For the Puerto Ricans, it meant hope.
For the Mexicans, it was the joy of Don Feliciano's first grandson. In-spite
of the physical difficulties his mother had during her pregnancy, Jose
Manuel was a rather beautiful boy. He weighed eight pounds, twelve
ounces and was twenty-two inches long. Manolo combined the names of two
of his best friends who died on the trip from Puerto Rico three years
before. He wanted an American nickname for his son, so he called him
Joey. He was Maria's first and only child. Her pregnancy was so humanly
unbearable that they decided not to have a second child. Don Feliciano
was outraged at their decision, but Manolo reminded him that he had six
other daughters who could give him more grandchildren.

The old man was extremely proud of his grandson. Maria got healthier and
went back to work on the ranch while one of the younger sisters took
care of the baby. She was a dutiful wife and hardworking mother. Every
day she ironed clothes washed the dishes and breast-feeded Joey, without
saying a thing. But time passed, and she started getting tired of
cleaning house, doing the laundry, preparing the coffee, caring for the
baby and cooking rice and beans for her husband. Manolo was the moody
type and often complained of not getting enough attention from his
adorable Mexican girl. He was never satisfied with Maria's devotion and
love. There were also arguments between Manolo and his father-in-law.
Manolo argued that he was always in the middle of everything, and Don
Feliciano thought his son-in-law had turned into a "sinverguenza". There
were rumors about his early hour escapades to the town pubs. Even Maria's
sisters felt uncomfortable with Manolo's long and tight hugs. His
sister-in-law's had grown into lavishing young women, and he took
advantage of every opportunity he got to get physically close to them.
Their marriage had turned into a nightmare soon after Joey's birth.

Joey graduated from high school when Puerto Ricans on the Island of
Puerto Rico became United States citizens in 1917. It was a big thing
for Manolo. The Puerto Ricans had multiplied themselves, and the Mayor
found no choice but to allow them to live near the town suburbs. Many of
the original seventy had married Mexican girls from the town. Five of
Don Feliciano's daughters had married Manolo's compatriots. There were
differences within the two communities, but they were able to maintain a
cordial friendship that went beyond the disputes over land boundaries,
personal relationships and improved working conditions which never came.

Manolo had celebrated his fortieth birthday, and it was the right excuse
for a new beginning. He had settled down, and his beautiful María had
forgiven him for all his mishaps. There was talk about a Puerto Rican
migration to New York City. According to the California newspapers,
commercial ties and the trading of raw materials opened a new window of
opportunities for the new Puerto Rican settlers in New York City. After
the United States obtained control of the Island, more working class
Puerto Ricans came to New York.

Manolo saw the events as an opportunity to escape the vigilant and
watchful eye of his father-in-law. María struggled to survive in a
marriage filled with false promises and a machista husband. She sought
answers from within but found none. In spite of their parents' troubled
relationship, Joey did well in school. He had very poor communication
with his father but was everything for his mother. She protected her
handsome son and made sure he did not turn out like his father. While
Manolo used any excuse to start a fight with anyone, the boy stayed away
from problems. His friends admired his poise and tranquility. He was
often called "The Peacemaker" because he mediated in difficult
situations in the neighborhood, especially the clashes between the
Puerto Ricans and the Mexicans at the ranch. He was a rare combination
of sorts. Born American in California of Puerto Rican and Mexican
immigrants. But he grew up extremely proud of his American roots. He
spoke English at school, but Spanish was the primary language in his
house in the neighborhood and at church. He lived in a household where
three cultures and two languages became one. There was no fuss or
discussion about when to use English or Spanish. It was natural for Joey
to speak English with his friends and Spanish with family.

It was right after Joey's high school graduation in 1920 that Manolo
broke the good news. He was moving his family to New York City, end of
story, no discussions. It was like a bombshell to Maria's family. Don
Feliciano put up a fight, but it was Manolo's word that mattered, as
always, but Joey was excited because he had read about the Puerto Rican
migration up East and was interested in seeing new people. Moreover, his
father convinced him about the better career opportunities he would
find in New York City. Since he was in grade school, he had grown up
wanting to make a difference, and this was not the place for him to
fulfill his dream.

They arrived in New York City in the leafless autumn of 1923. The leaves
had fallen off the trees faster than usual, leaving a winter touch to
an early autumn. Thanks to a cousin who had moved from Puerto Rico a few
years before, he rented a small apartment on 110th street off Third
Avenue in Manhattan. It was in a block of two-story tenements with brick
fronts. The apartment was a two-room second floor walk-up. It had a
bedroom, a kitchen-living room and a bathroom. Joey complained about
sleeping in the living room, but his father guaranteed that they would
move into a better place soon. Maria was silent but felt she was living
in a fish tank. She was prohibited from leaving the apartment and
talking to her neighbors. It was too dangerous according to her husband,
and she spent endless hours looking out the window and cleaning the
apartment for the one-hundredth time. Every time she argued with Manolo
about New York, he reminded her of the better opportunities that existed
for Joey. She kept silent and held on to the love that she had for the

Manolo bought books for Joey, not many but enough to spark his son's
interest. As his interest grew, his father continued to buy more books
for him. The boy enjoyed reading late into the night and encountered an
imaginary world that took him away from his parents' everyday
differences. The atmosphere at home was not always warm and the American
and British classics provided him with comfort and sudden relief.

Joey found a job at a small cigar shop and was introduced to a group of
recently arrived Puerto Rican workers from the Island who worked rolling
tobaccos and read books and talked politics. They taught him the trade,
and he learned fast. His co-workers had practically turned the working
area into a university. One of them posed as a reader who read to them
for one half hour in the morning and one half hour in the afternoon. A
lot of stuff they talked about was surreal to him, but he found their
conversations amusing. They often tried to drag him into the reader-response
sessions about whether or not Puerto Rico should become a United States
state, an independent republic or stay as a territory of the United
States of America, but Joey could care less. He was an American, he told
them, and they politely laughed at his reaction. They claimed he was a
new breed. They called him The Rican. It was a combination of United
States of America, Puerto Rico and Mexico, they said. He decided to
accept the nickname, which his half-brothers baptized him with. They
were right, he thought. After all, there was something about them that
attracted him to them.

Manolo found a job in an Italian restaurant earning a dollar and fifteen
cents a day. He washed dishes, mopped the floors, cleaned the bathrooms
and did everything he was ordered to do in the restaurant. He sometimes
worked twelve hours a day but got paid for eight. For his overtime
hours, Manolo's boss provided him with leftover meals, which María and
Joey devoured during the cold, freezing and hungry winters of the 1920's.

It was during the hot and humid summer of 1925 that Joey fell in love.
She was Italian and the daughter of Manolo's boss, the owner of five of
New York City's finest restaurants strategically positioned throughout
the city. One day, Joey came by to leave a message from his mother when
he saw her for the first time. She looked like an Italian Goddess from
Greek mythology. She had light green radiant eyes and long bold black
hair. Her legs were sensuously perfect, and her waist seemed like a road
with smooth and silky curves. Her eyes were deeply expressive but had a
profound sadness to them. She was attracted to him immediately. Joey
was twenty-two and had never had a girlfriend before. He was about six-feet
tall and his tan looking skin had flourished during the summer. His
eyebrows were lined up perfectly, and he had a smile that lit up the sky
wherever he was at the time. She had graduated from high school two
years before and helped her father take care of the family business. She
seemed out of reach for Joey, but he won her over with his warm heart
and supernatural smile.

Rose's father was strongly against the relationship, and he threatened
to fire Manolo. He liked him but never imagined his daughter married to
a son of a Puerto Rican. He advised Manolo to tell his son to stay away
or else. He was outraged. He immediately confronted Joey. He needed the
job, he argued, and Joey promised his father that he would stay away.
But they met secretly. They were madly in love and decided to see each
other against their parent's will.

Little did Rose know that her father had promised her hand in matrimony
to the son of the wealthiest Italian in New York City. Everything had
been arranged. Mario Capone, Rose's father had lost most of the family
money in a gone wrong financial deal with a bootlegger in Long Island.
This partnership deal would stabilize the family financial outreach and
put an end to his worries. Someone had to pay the price in the family.
It seemed that Rosa was falling into an abyss, and Joey dived right into

They planned to elope because Mr. Capone would never approve the
relationship, and they loved each other too much to break up. They met
secretly in parks. They had few options, but they wanted to marry, live
together and have a family. Mario Capone, the Italian entrepreneur, was
well known in Manhattan. He was an icon to the Italians in Hell's
Kitchen. Although he was extremely powerful, he had risen from a very
humble background. His father and brothers had all worked for New York
Central railroad. But young Mario wanted better and as a child worked in
a restaurant and became the owner's apprentice. The owner had no
children and treated Mario as one of his own. Right at the turn of the
twentieth century, the owner and his wife were assassinated by Italian
mobsters, and twenty-year old Mario found himself in front of the
restaurant. He hired his brothers and transformed the place into one of
New York's best restaurant. He bought another restaurant near Yankee
Stadium and made good contacts within the Bronx Bomber organization.
Many of the pinstripe regulars dined at Capone's. From there, he
continued networking and opened three more restaurants. But the many
city regulations and the fame and fortune way of life of Mr. Capone had
made him make financial arrangements with loan sharks and bootleggers,
and his once stable empire had fallen in economic disarray.

After their relationship blossomed, Mr. Capone broke the news to Rose.
He had promised her to the son of the wealthy Louie Righetti. Louie Jr.
was the sole heir of the Righetti fortune. Rose was in shock but kept
quiet. Her relationship with Joey did not exist in her father's mind.
She was never allowed to have a say or a word in her father's decisions,
especially since Capone had vehemently disapproved of her previous
relationship and had sent her on a two-year exile in Italy. She loved
Joey but had to obey her father.

Joey was flabbergasted when Rose shared the news. He tried to convince
her to go to California. They could begin a new life there, he argued.
But she did not want to leave her life in New York City. She loved him,
but there had to be other alternatives. He had become an excellent cigar
roller and had been trained and ready to start a new business. It was
the opportunity that his father had mentioned, and this was the right
time. The trade of his half brothers from the Island had found a space
in his heart. When his half-breed brothers from the Island 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 became more and
more thoughtful about their claims.

It was unreal to him. Joey's Puerto Rico was all in telegrams about
deaths in the family, newspaper stories about the U.S. invasion of the
new New York migrants and stories he heard from Manolo 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
place, the more he developed in experiencing it. Now that Rose was deep
in his heart, he dwindled with moving to the Caribbean Island. It was an
option and a new beginning.

California was his birthplace and the land of his upbringing, and he had
left friends and family behind, but he felt like there was a piece of
him still missing. Maria knew about her son's relationship and was
supportive. She wanted to help her son escape to her father's ranch and
wrote him a letter:

Dear Dad, ! Bendición desde Nueva York!
Greetings to Mom and the girls. Hope this letter finds you in good
health. I wanted to tell you how miserable I feel in NYC. It's a big and
cold city. Manolo continues to misbehave. I don't
know how much more I can take and I wanna go home. But Joey needs help
immediately. He is in love with an Italian girl daughter of Mr. Mario
Capone, one of the most powerful men in New York City. They are deeply
in love, but Capone does not accept our son for his daughter.
He doesn't know that I am writing to you, but he has spoken
about taking her to California. What do you think? Can you prepare a
place for Joey and Rose? Can I go to? I'm sick and tired of Manolo.
Con mucho cariño y amor, Maria

Don Feliciano's reply came three weeks later. He never liked Manolo and
loved his daughter, but he did 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. He wanted to go, but he knew
how much his mother had suffered. He was uncertain and indecisive. He
had witnessed the daily shouting and verbal abuses of his father. He
stayed quiet out of respect towards his father, but he also felt he had
gone too far.

Rose was hanging on a thread. She was formally committed to marry a man
she did not love, but she was torn between obeying her father and loving
Joey. It was too much for her to handle. The wedding was in six months,
and Louie Jr. already wanted more than kisses and hugs. Rose was living
a daily emotional battle. Her soul-searching dilemma had turned her
into an extraordinary gorgeous woman.

It was during the course of these events in his life that Joey met Prof.
Carlos Cintrón. Due to his enhanced interest in books, he had been
taking a course on American and English literature in the public library
at Lexington Avenue. His love for literature had developed immeasurably,
and he wanted to read more about William Shakespeare, John Milton and
Edgar Allan Poe. The Professor as his students called him 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. The Professor felt he was ahead
of his time, but every time he was in his presence, Joey received an
inner peace that he had not experienced before. It was this peace that
in a one on one conference with the Professor, Joey was able to have an
encounter with the Spirit. After several weeks of internal introspection
and more conversations with the Professor, Joey decided to make drastic
decisions that would help him move on with his life without regrets,
knowing that he had received the inner strength and courage to make them.

Three months before the scheduled wedding, Joey decided to talk to Mr.
Capone. He had found the necessary strength to confront the situation
personally. Thanks to the Professor's guidance, he had learned that this
was all part of a process, and there was no way that he should deviate
from the path. There was no coincidence in wanting to make a difference
in people's lives and in connecting with the Puerto Ricans from the

Winters in New York City were chillingly frightening. The roaring
twenties had frozen the solar system in 1927. Although there was a warm
stint at times, it seemed like an eternity before the mild and warm
weather found its place between the hard brick homes and cold sidewalks.
While Joey fluttered down the street towards his meeting with Capone,
he felt the wind running into every cell of his body. The Professor's
divine intervention was a determining factor in his final decision. He
never told him what to do, but the process itself led him to decide the
road to freedom. His mentor had spoken to him about a higher purpose in
life, and he was looking forward to a life with a profound sense of
meaning and direction.

After a long walk to Capone's, Joey breathed in and out and softly went
in through the restaurant's front revolving door. He immediately spotted
Mr. Capone in the lobby entrance and he gently and bravely interrupted
his conversation with one of his employees.

"Mr. Capone, I'd like a few minutes of your valuable time." "There is no
need for a conversation. I am very busy right now and have made myself
clear to your father." He quickly replied. "Please Mr. Capone, leave my
father out of this. I believe that I am capable of deciding what to do
with my life."
"So you say, you haven't decided wisely so far. You were told to stay
away from Rose, and you haven't."

At this point, Capone pointed and carefully walked towards a small table
in the back of the restaurant while Joey followed. Two of his
associates accompanied them along the way. The brief walk to the table
caught the attention of everyone at Capone's.

"Mr. Capone, I have decided to put my priorities in order." "What does
that have to do with my daughter?" "Well, your precious daughter is a
priority for me."

News through the restaurant traveled fast, and Rose's heart sank to her
feet when she heard that he was speaking to her father. He had once
mentioned talking to her father, but this caught her by surprise.

"You know Joey, you have a lot of guts coming into my restaurant. I own
your father and your family. I don't know where you got the courage to
see me. Personally, I got nothing against you, but I won't allow anyone
interfere in my plans to marry Rose to Louie Jr."

At this precise moment, one of his tailored dressed employees said
something to him in his ear.

"We have to finish this conversation later. I have more serious business
to take care of right now."
"Hear me out, please. I deeply love Rose, but I don't want to cause you
or your family any problem. That's why I have decided to stop seeing
your daughter, and she's free to marry Righetti. I wanted to tell you
personally." Capone forced a smile, stood up, shook his hand and left

A day later, Rose and Joey met for the last time. Three of Capone's
associates observed the couple at a distance. She was as beautiful as
ever. He made it brief and simple. She was free to marry Righetti Jr.,
and he was going to move to the Island of Puerto Rico. She kept quiet
and did not look at him throughout the ten-minute monologue. They hugged
and parted their ways.
Joey spoke with his father about his decision, but Manolo was against
his son's desires. He wanted to encounter his roots, visit the Rio
Blanco Hills and meet some of his father's relatives. It was necessary.
He would come back, but he did not know when.

Maria was devastated the day Joey left to Puerto Rico. His co-workers
had arranged for someone to pick him up at the San Juan dock. He wanted
to take her with him, but she did not want to be in his way. A month
after her son left, she found the courage within herself and left Manolo
and moved in with a sister in New Jersey who had also moved up East.
She was still a young woman and wanted to begin a new life.

Manolo cursed the day she was born when he read her farewell letter. He
had been away partying for the weekend and could care less anyway.

* Oh Dios mio: Oh my God
* barrio: countryside or rural community
* bodega: small grocery store
* finca: farm * mulattos: born from an interracial marriage
* mayordomo: administrator
* tu eres un viejo: you are an old man
* busca a mama: get mom
* machista: chauvinist
I have always been interested in that first PR migration, well, not the
first, but the first major one, 2000 PR's en route to Hawaii in 1900.
This is a true story. Then, I have a friend in California who told me
about relatives he has in Hawaii, third cousins. . great-grandchildren
of that migration. Then, I have also done research on the ones that
stayed in California. Many escaped, just like Manolo. I wondered what
their lives would be like meeting their Latino counterparts. Believe me,
much of it is sheer imagination. But there is a lot of truth in it.
Then, there has always been this thing between immigrants in the US. You
know what I am talking about, so all this could have happened, but it
didn't. It is fiction.