María Rebecca Latigo de Hernández was born July 29, 1896 in Garza García, outside of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, to Eduardo Frausto and Franscica (Medrano) Latigo. She taught elementary school in Monterrey before immigrating to Texas as part of the flood of people leaving Mexico during the Mexican Revolution.
In 1915 she married Pedro Hernandez Barrera in Hebbronville, Texas. They moved to San Antonio in 1918, where they opened a grocery store and bakery. Their family would eventually grow to include 10 children. They began their political activism in 1924 but did not become permanent residents until February 2, 1928.
On January 10, 1929, they helped found the Orden Caballeros de America (the Order of Knights of America), an organization dedicated to activities for the benefit of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants. Under the auspices of the order, Maria Hernandez helped organize the Associacion Protectora de Madres, which provided financial assistance to expectant mothers. The association operated until 1939 with the help of Dr. A.I. Mena.
Despite the pressures of the tumultuous 1930’s, Maria L. de Hernandez was fearless in her fight for civil rights. Although Mexican Americans served as a convenient scapegoat during this period, Hernandez stood up and fought back. In 1932 Hernandez became San Antonio’s first Mexican female radio announcer. She was the only female speaker at the first meeting of the League of United Latin American Citizens in 1934. She supported its work of promoting equality for Mexican Americans until 1940 and again in 1947 when it was reorganized. In 1934 she helped organize La Liga de Defensa Pro-Escalar, an organization working for better facilities and better education for the West Side Mexican community. When, in 1938, women workers demanded better pay and working conditions in the Pecan-Shellers’ Strike, Hernandez took up their cause. She was one of the group of women who, in 1939, visited Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas to express goodwill between Mexico and Mexicans in the United States.
Hernandez’ essay “Mexico y Los Cuatro Poders Que Dirigen al Pueblo”, published in 1945, asserted that the domestic sphere was the foundation of society and mothers were the authority figures who molded nations. Then she organized Club Liberal Pro-Cultura de la Mujer to build upon these ideas.
Through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and even into the 70’s, Hernendez made hundreds of speeches in support of civil rights for Mexican Americans and African Americans. She and her husband were invited to a hearing before the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 1968. Continuing their political activism, they joined the Raza Unida party and toured much of Texas campaigning for gubernatorial candidate Ramsey Muniz and candidate for the State Board of Education Marta Cotera in 1972.
Maria Hernandez died of pneumonia on January 8,1986. As a tribute to the respect and prestige she had earned through her life’s work she was buried in the plot of the Orden Caballeros de America outside Elmendorf.