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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.

To Be or not To Be Puerto Rican: Marc Anthony and Jennifer López
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright 2007

To be or not to be, that is the Puerto Rican question. The up and coming "estreno" of the movie, El Cantante will no doubt refuel the issue of who is and who is not "puertorriqueño" in Puerto Rico. Jennifer López and Marc Anthony will captivate the media's attention when they visit Puerto Rico for the premiere, but the media will classify them as "artistas de origen puertorriqueño". With the United States 2000 Census revealing parallel numbers between Puerto Ricans born on the Island and Boricuas born, raised or living on the Mainland, the debate will find new life with the visit of the the mega-superstar couple.

Even with recent demonstrations of brotherhood and camaraderie in public demonstrations by Marc Anthony and Chayanne, the issue takes center-stage in daily discussions on the Island. In his record-breaking concert in Madison Square Garden, Marc Anthony stated that he was a Puerto Rican and an American at the same time. One of the founders of the Nuyorican poetry movement, Sandra Maria Esteves, states in her poem “Here” that she is “two parts a person, boricua/spic, past and present, alive and oppressed”.

United States Ricans have a way of intertwining their dual identities and are not apprehensive about being bilingual and bicultural, but on the Island academics and scholars alike have perpetuated the discussions on who and who is not and have made it part of their everyday rice and beans. With tens of thousands of United States Ricans coming back to their homeland to retire and settle down, the situation will only develop into heights yet unknown to Boricuas-kind.

The best-selling Puerto Rican author, Esmeralda Santiago, came back to Puerto Rico after thirteen years and was disappointed when her Puerto Rican heritage was constantly questioned:“How can puertorriqueños who have never left the Island accuse us when they allow the American contamination I was seeing all around? There were McDonald’s, Pizza Huts, and so on. I used to think that this was not our culture (Puerto Rican Voices in English, p.163).” Questions about Santiago’s identity came back to haunt her again after she titled her best-selling 1993 memoir When I Was Puerto Rican. Literary discourse specialists in colleges on the Island were disturbed by the past tense of the verb to be in the title. Fourteen years later and with widespread international acclaim, her local critics have eased the critical tone and now proudly invite her to speak at conferences today in the same academic arenas where she was questioned in the past.

In Francois Grosjean’s Life with Two Languages, he defines code switching as “the alternate use of two or more languages in the same utterance or conversation”(145). If the use of two languages has been recognized by linguists and academics as a practice with a high degree of competence, how about dual identities? For once and for all, Island Puerto Ricans should understand that it is possible to be born elsewhere and still be a Puerto Rican. An American born on the Island or in any other parts of the world would definitely consider him/herself an American. Jews will always be Jews no matter where they were born, raised or presently reside.

Mariposa, a young New York-Puerto Rican poet sums it up in the second and third stanzas in “Ode to the DiaspoRican”:

Some people say that I’m not the real thing
Boricua, that is
cause I wasn’t born on the enchanted island
cause I was born on the mainland
north of Spanish Harlem
cause I was born in the Bronx…
some people think that I’m not bonafide
cause my playground was a concrete jungle
cause my Río Grande de Loiza was the Bronx River
cause my Fajardo was City Island
my Luquillo Orchard Beach
and summer nights were filled with city noises
instead of coquis
and Puerto Rico
was just some paradise
that we only saw in pictures.

What does it mean to live in between
What does it take to realize
that being Boricua
is a state of mind
a state of heart
a state of soul…