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Student author looks back in "Letters from 2161"
Student self-publishes book of letters and poetry
October 24, 2017

Ernest Hernandez, senior business major at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, alternated between sitting cross-legged on a blanket and reclining in a saucer chair at Dead Tree Books at 5645 S. Flores St. as he awaited the audience at a signing for his new book, “Letters from 2161 and Pachuco Poetry.”

The event was held on Saturday Oct. 14 at the unassuming and homespun bookstore on the South Side of San Antonio to celebrate Hernandez’ milestone with a reading to the public. That afternoon, Hernandez said his first book signing event allowed him the chance at something very important to him: giving back.

“I’ve always had a place in my heart for service and being connected to my community,” Hernandez said. “Being part of something that’s bigger than myself and giving back.”

“Letters from 2161,” which Hernandez began writing in 2011, didn’t start out as a book of letters. Originally, he was writing a journalistic article about voting for a small community newspaper called El Placazo titled “SA 2020” published by San Anto Cultural Arts.

“But when I wrote the article, it didn’t come out as a didactic tool to teach about voting. It came out as a letter.”

One letter evolved into a series of letters from the future to the past.

The letters, authored by the fictional Augusto Dantes are addressed to family, friends and neighbors and tell the story of how he navigated a life in San Antonio politics, plagued by low-voter turnout.

The letters, told from his personal point of view, provide insight, solace, and advice for navigating a polarized political world. “I hope that knowing the future of your people will give you hope to progress sooner…I will write more as I see you’ve progressed,” Dantes writes.

In the opening letter, addressed to Tesoros or treasure, the fictional character explains from the future how he rejected party politics and did not “place my vote, my power on the hopes of any one party…”

“Therefore, I chose to vote man by man, woman by woman, office by office, and issue by issue.”

“I’ve always had a place in my heart for service and being connected to my community,” Hernandez said. “Being part of something that’s bigger than myself and giving back.”

Hernandez explained that indicators from the “SA 2020” model allowed him to shape the format of the book.

“My goal was to write an article on each indicator of ‘SA 2020,’” Hernandez said. “But when it turned into these letters I changed it to have a different little bit of an artistic flair. It became a series of letters from the future to the past, now.”

Readers of the letters understand that they are the recipients of old-fashioned, hand-written letters that are telecommunicated from the future to the past.

“I love to write letters to people. If I had all my friends’ home addresses, I would send them a letter probably once a quarter,” Hernandez said. “But I think it’s different when you receive a handwritten letter from someone, and that was the idea behind it. Even though it wasn’t a handwritten letter, it’s the sci-fi portion of it. It’s a text document sent through telecommunications from the future to the past.”

“I still wanted it to be a personal communication from one person to another person trying to urge them to some course of action.”

The letters center around the year 2161, specifically chosen by Hernandez in reference to a concept known as the Golden Ratio.

“I used it to identify this year when people have achieved a golden age of consciousness,” Hernandez said. “The book imagines letters from the future written to the past, which is now, to say this is how bad things became and this was the frame of mind in which we made progress. So why not use some of that today to prevent the future from falling apart eventually?”

Hernandez hopes to inspire change in future policies through his concepts. The Economics Rights Act, for instance, is one idea presented in Hernandez’ work that he believes has potential in advancing the common good.

“What I see happening in our society now is a lot of people are fighting on their own. People are fighting for women’s rights. People are fighting for LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, but I think in all of those, there’s an economic tie,” Hernandez said during his book signing. “And I think if they were able to all fight together for the economic principles, they might make more change.”

When discussing inspirations behind his decision to pursue literary endeavors, Hernandez gave credit to a few of his peers.

“The one person who was most influential was Mary Hernandez because when I started the articles that became the letters, she was in charge of the newspaper program and she was the one who gave it the green light,” Hernandez said. “And she was the one who requested an article on politics. So without her playing that role to let it come into existence I wouldn’t have had any other outlet to express myself in this manner.”

“And another person who has been very influential is Eddie Vega, who is another poet in San Antonio who help me put his collection together into a book format, and he helped me with a great deal and he read all of my letters, which he gave me his seal of approval.”

Ernest Hernandez, business senior prepares for his book signing on Oct. 14 at Dead Tree Books, 5645 S Flores St #105. Hernandez patiently waits for people to show up but after two hours, no one came. Photo by Rafael Gubser
Ernest Hernandez, business senior prepares for his book signing on Oct. 14 at Dead Tree Books, 5645 S Flores St #105. Hernandez patiently waits for people to show up but after two hours, no one came. Photo by Rafael Gubser

A non-traditional path

Hernandez, a native of San Antonio, took a non-traditional path following graduation from Brackenridge High School.

“I spent a semester at the United States Naval Academy, where I found that wasn’t the direction my heart wanted to pursue,” Hernandez said. “I spent a long time after that searching, and then found myself at San Antonio College. I started studying business. I spent a couple of semesters at UTSA, and now, I’m back in business here at Texas A&M-San Antonio.”

For inspiration, Ernest turned to literature from the world of business, citing books like New Ideas from Dead CEOs and The Bankers New Clothes.

“Even though I write poetry, I’m kind of business-minded,” he said.

While Hernandez pursues his education, he also manages to find ways to give back to the community. Recently, Hernandez delivered a poetry workshop at Irving Middle School titled Revealing Purpose, an event where he praised the level of student involvement.

“They (the students) have the most passionate, heart-wrenching emotions that I wouldn’t have thought,” Hernandez said. “When I was in middle school, I was concerned with my routine to Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, yet these students write to relate to the world. These kids are dealing with real life issues.”

Hernandez also spends his time volunteering at the San Antonio Food Bank, an endeavor that he was open about having his reservations over at first.

“I hate to admit it, but when I first went to the Food Bank, I was not pleased to be there because I didn’t have many options at that time of where to dedicate my time,” Hernandez said. “But I knew that giving back was a part of who I was, and I needed to start somewhere.”

Ultimately, Hernandez has no regrets about assisting with the Food Bank.

“Even though it was difficult, I’m glad I stuck it out because almost three years later of regularly volunteering, it’s become a part of my life.”

In relation to the Food Bank, Hernandez noted that he is working to partner with the organization to promote a new campaign of his called Justice Meals. Justice Meals acts as another outlet for Hernandez, as well as others who are interested, to give back to communities.

“The concept of the Justice Meal is that you have a smaller meal to create a savings, and then donate that savings to a cause you support,” Hernandez said. “Anyone having a Justice Meal picks their own cause, but if you don’t have one, I’d like to say that the Food Bank is the preferred recipient.”

Hernandez spoke with The Mesquite at his book signing at Dead Tree Books, an event with attendance numbers that unfortunately did not meet his expectations. However, that stumble in the road does not hinder Hernandez’ vision for his future and the capabilities of his ideas in Letters from 2161.

“Considering that the invite originated in Facebook, I try not to judge any kind of interaction I have with people or the quality of our interaction based on Facebook,” Hernandez said. “While I am a little disappointed that there wasn’t the turnout that I had hoped for, I don’t let that in any way deter the notion that these are valid ideas and that they might be useful to someone somewhere down the line.”

Hernandez looks ahead towards beginning to pursue a Master’s degree beginning in Fall 2018, and is already preparing for his next book to be released in the same year. Currently titled The Legend of Azul, Hernandez’ next literary endeavor is primarily a children’s story, but he believes that it can apply to anyone. Despite the turnout to his book signing for Letters from 2161, Hernandez expressed great interest when asked if he would try to organize a similar event for his next work.

“I definitely would. Yes, that’s a sure thing.”

Hernandez continues to focus on being able to give back to others in all of his future projects.

“There’s a movie that I love to death called ‘Rudy,’” Hernandez said. “ I identify with that movie because it’s a story of the underdog finally succeeding in the end. So, every time I think of this story, I think of it as a similar opportunity, and I’m just deeply appreciative of that.”

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