Manuel Hernandez, was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico. From a very early age he was exposed to social justice issues and was highly influenced by Latin-American liberation theology inspired by Jesuit philosophy. At age 17, while studying philosophy with the Jesuits, he spent a summer in the border towns of Mexico and Guatemala where he directly saw the inequality and the social issues that force people to migrate. He adds; “Seeing that kind of poverty and the long term effects of the Central American war on the most marginalized, has forever changed the way I see the world”. Manuel immigrated to California at age 19 where he experienced racism first hand. Similar stories of racism that he had only heard about from his father while he was working as a farmworker in the US in the 1960’s.
While living in Los Angeles, California, Manuel got involved with The Catholic Worker, a movement founded by writer Dorothy Day during the 1930’s. Currently this movement is formed by hundreds of small intentional communities worldwide, whose primary focus is to serve and work towards a more just society. He spent six years working with the homeless and immigrant community in a soup kitchen in Skid Row, LA. At age 26, Manuel returned to Mexico to start an intentional community named Casa Colibri where he worked for fourteen years. Casa Colibri assisted children and their families through educational and artistic programs. “Casa Colibri has been the most humbling and beautiful thing I have done in my life, I thought I had a lot to give and help, but after a decade I realized that I had a lot to learn and was given much more than I could possibly imagine.”
After two decades of being part of the Catholic Worker, Manuel took a sabbatical year and moved to Albuquerque NM. Manuel adds; “There is a thread that has followed me during all the experiences of my life, the good times and the difficult ones. This golden thread is art. In fact, I doubt I would be alive without it”.
Manuel was hired as the visual arts director for Working Classroom at the end 2019 and he considers this to be an expansion of the work he was doing at Casa Colibri. He concludes, “I truly believe that art has the power to change the individual and society, I don’t know of a single revolution that was won without the use of art in some form”.