While waiting to take the plane from Lima, Peru, back to Chicago I read online the terrible news that Chicago journalist Carlos Hernandez Gomez lost his battle with cancer.
I became friends with Carlos more than 10 years ago when he was a young
reporter writing for Extra Bilingual Newspaper and La Opinion. I was a
Chicago Tribune reporter at the time and would run into Carlos on
assignments in Chicago's Latino neighborhoods.
We covered a lot of the same stories. But there was never any competition with Carlos. He was always friendly and generous.
One story that we both covered was in September 1999 when a group of Puerto Rican members of the FALN were granted clemency by then President Bill Clinton.
I remember waiting with Carlos on Division Street to get an interview with one of the newly released prisoners. Contacts we had in the community snuck us into the back of the Boriken Bakery so we could interview one of the prisoners.
We were so proud because we got the first interviews that day. I'm
Mexican and Carlos Puerto Rican. We used to joke about a refrain
you hear sometimes during Latino protests. "Boricua. Mexicano. Luchando
mano a mano," or "Puerto Rican. Mexican. Fighting side by side."
I always thought of him as mi hermanito, my little brother.
When he first started on the radio, people would ask him why he pronounced his name Carrrlos Hernaandezzz Goomezzz. He always insisted on accenting the right syllables in Spanish.
Carlos was boricua and proud of his Puerto Rican heritage.
I was so proud to see his success as a journalist as I followed his career. To me he will always be Carlitos.
I'm heartbroken that I did not get a chance to say goodbye and that someone so talented, warm and funny was taken from us too soon.
Adios mi amigo. Te vamos a querer siempre.