Wednesday, May 12, 2010

El Rincón Borinqueña: Essay Collection (1)

Professor Manuel Hernandez Essays Collection: Manuel Hernandez is a professional staff development specialist and works full-time for the Department of Education in Puerto Rico. He is also a culturally relevant text consultant and has given workshops throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico. He also writes freelance; his commentary essays have appeared in numerous newspapers and site in Puerto Rico and in cities in the United States.

For the last fifteen years, Professor Manuel Hernandez has been a leader in the field of education. He specializes in the area of culturally related texts and their ability to increase academic success.

Some of the areas of expertise are:

· Develop cultural awareness of educators to increase potential academic success (read essays 36, 60 ,66 ,67 and 109)
· Foster strategies that will boost Latino parent involvement (read essays 79 and 80)
· Present a vision on the diversity of Latino education and its development, progress and assertiveness (read essays 72, 86, 108, 114 and 115)
· Strengthen reading and writing skills by using Latino/a literature as a bridge to the American and British classics (read essays 8, 12, 13, 21 and 36)
· Improving literacy in the English Classroom (74, 75, 114 and 115)

· How to write and publish a textbook (

· Latinos and educational reform ( read essays 31, 32, 33 and 35)

Contact Manuel Hernandez at

Address: Calle Laurel #255
Urb. Fajardo Gardens
Fajardo, Puerto Rico 00738
I have selected a few essays from his collection to post here.


Essay #1: "To Be or Not to Be Puerto Rican" By Manuel Hernandez

To be or not to be, that is the Puerto Rican question. The recent victory by Fernando Ferrer as a political candidate to one of the most important mayoral positions in the United States has refueled the on-going local debate. Shakespearean Puerto Ricans have once again brought up the dilemma of who is and who is not Puerto Rican. 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 continues in all means of communication on The Island. 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”. Jennifer Lopez has broken all paradigms and proudly displays the colors of the Puerto Rican flag in her never-ending videos on MTV and on interviews in international television. 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 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. Twelve years later and with widespread national acclaim, her local critics have eased the critical tone and now proudly invite her to speak at conferences today in the same 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…

Please view comment from :
Francois Grosjean
Professor Emeritus
Universite de Neuchatel, Avenue du 1er-Mars 26,
CH-2000 Neuchatel, Suisse/Switzerland
Web site:

1 comment:

Francois Grosjean said...

Dear Miriam Medina,

I enjoyed reading your blog concerning Professor Hernandez's book. I am most grateful to you for having cited my Life with Two Languages.

You may be interested to know that I have just published a general public book on the subject, "Bilingual: Life and Reality". You can find a description of it here:

Among other things, it has a short chapter on being bicultural and what it means at the level of behavior and identity. I argue in it how important it is for biculturals to be accepted by both cultures and not be forced to choose the one or the other. They belong to both and we should accept them for who they are.

With very good wishes to you.

François Grosjean
Professor Emeritus