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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.

What’s Your Name?
By Manuel Hernandez copyright@2006

When I attended grade school, my name was mispronounced often.
Instead of the Spanish Manuel, teachers made an extreme effort when
saying it and always ended up pronouncing it incorrectly. For them, I
was Man-You-El. That wasn’t my name, but I didn’t dare correct my
teachers. At home and to my childhood buddies, I was Junior. I was named
after my father, and it was customary to call the son with the father’s
name. There were so many Juniors, but I did feel more in the family with
that name.
I grew up in North Tarrytown, New York in the late 1960’s and
early 1970’s. My parents had moved from Puerto Rico during the years
following the end of World War II. My mother escaped the vigilant and
watchful eye of my grandparents, and Father was encouraged to move to
New York for financial reasons. One hot humid Sunday afternoon, Manuel
and Carmen crossed their Latino eyes at a Pentecostal church in
Brooklyn. The rest is part of American history.
When my family moved to Puerto Rico in October of 1974, my names
changed drastically. On the first day of school, my sixth grade teacher,
Mrs. Tapia, asked me, “Cual es tu segundo apellido?” I was dumbfounded.
You see, in the United States, my mother’s last name was never needed,
mentioned or asked for in school. In Puerto Rico, a second last name was
a must. But Mrs. Tapia asked who my mother was and immediately knew that
it was Carmona. I hated it. I have nothing against my mother’s last
name, but it was new for me, and I didn’t like the sound of it. For me,
Carmona was half a car and half “mona” (female monkey).
To add to insult and from that moment on, she always called me
Carmona and so did the rest of the teachers in that school. It just so
happened that all my eight aunts and four uncles had studied in Carolina
G. De Veve elementary school, and I as the oldest grandson was the new
Carmona in town. My “compañeros de clase” called me Gringo and
Nuyorican. I didn’t have a clue what those words meant, but they laughed
and giggled when they called me like that. Someone told me that Gringo
was because I had moved from the United States, and Nuyorican was
supposed to mean that I was half Puerto Rican and half New York Rican or
something like that. I hated those names too, but there were too many
Boricuas to fight.
When my family moved to another town, I thought that I could get rid
of Carmona, but there was a Math teacher that everyone said looked like
me and guess what his name was, Mr. Carmona. In high school, I began to
finally get away from Carmona but till this day, my high school
classmates still call me, Carmona. In college, I made several trips to
New York City, and there my hometown buddies made me feel at ease by
once more calling me Junior.
When I enrolled in college, I started using Manuel as my new name.
It was the formal thing to do. Then I met Maria, my wife. She introduced
me to a tenderer, younger name, Nene. Wow! I really liked that one,
especially when she kissed me right after she pronounced it with all the
love in her heart.
When I became a teacher, students called me Mister Hernandez.
According to peers, the name demanded respect. I tried getting around
that one by telling students to call me just plain Hernandez and some
did, but I got new students all the time and they went back to calling
me, Mister Hernandez.
Then the greatest thing happened! I finished my Master’s degree and
was hired in my “alma mater”, the University of Puerto Rico as an
instructor of English. There students called teachers, professors. All
of a sudden I was the Professor. That really built my ego. No more
Mister, I was the professor now. For three years, I was professor here,
professor there. Nice! But I did not earn a Doctorate, and the
university sent me back to the unemployment office.
Thanks to a one on one confrontation within, I went back to the
beginning. Hey, I began as a teacher, so I went back to school teaching,
and my old name surfaced again, Mister Hernandez. For the first time in
my life, Mister Hernandez had a different tone, and I smiled when
students called my attention.
When I became a father, Joey and Josue called me Papi. That one
came with the territory. But for the last ten years, I have really made
an effort to be called Manny. The nickname has smooth and swift
connotations. First, there was a baseball player whose name was Manny
Sanguillen. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates during my childhood and
teen years, and as a kid I admired his tenacity and intensity. I was not
a Pirate fan, but all kids during the time watched Pirate baseball
superstar Roberto Clemente play, and there was Manny right behind the
plate. Second, I have always considered myself a simple quiet homeboy. I
believe Manny stands for all that and more. I love the name. Carmona,
well, that’s another story. What’s your name?