Juanita Hernandez was born on February 8, 1927 and raised in the Cork Town area of Detroit. One of six children, her parents taught her the importance of honesty, hard work and education. She has worked hard throughout her life to better the Hispanic community, blazing the trail for many to follow.
After graduating from Detroit Western High School and Wayne State University, she began her career with the city of Detroit in 1958, during a time when very few Latinos were involved in city government, much less in the white male dominated Building, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department. She went on to be a housing inspector for the city of Detroit and retired after 31 years in 1989.
Hernandez endured a tremendous amount of pressure and outright discrimination from her supervisors and peers during the early days of the civil rights movement. Her determination and sacrifice to create a place for herself and other Latinos within the city and state is apparent today.
Organizations such as Latin Americans for Social & Economic Development, Inc. (LA SED), Bridging Communities and LULAC of Michigan are here today because of the advocacy of Juanita Hernandez. Over the years, Hispanics have had the first Latina city council member and the first Latina state representative because of the work that Hernandez has done.
“Juanita is responsible for the launching of many of our current community organizations, including LA SED and Bridging Communities,” said Jane Garcia, the chair of the board of directors of LA SED. “At 90 years old, Juanita continues to serve on various boards and committees determined to continue to see Hispanics represented throughout the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.”
She formally served with Casa Maria, The Michigan Commission on Spanish Speaking Affairs, the United Way and New Detroit, Inc. Still today, Hernandez serves on the Detroit Planning Commission, Detroit Area on Aging Association and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Senior Advisory Council, still inspiring all who know and work with her.
On the occasion of Hernandez’s 90th birthday this past February, Guadalupe Lara said it best: “You are amazing and my role model! You are the model of what it means to have a life of service. Your current board memberships at LA SED for over 20 years and Detroit Area Agency on Aging is valuable to so many. I personally salute your continuous unselfish volunteer work on behalf of the Detroit Southwest community!” Lara is the consortium director at the Consortium of Hispanic Agencies in Detroit. At 90 years young,Juanita personifies the Spirit of Frida – proud, determined and always remembering her Latina roots.It is because of pioneers like Hernandez that many Hispanics in Detroit have theservices provided for them and have had a Latino representative at the table.