The activist is dedicated to women’s rights and the fair treatment of Puerto Rico and its people.
ORLANDO, FL – Lisa Marie Hernández found in the theater a perfect place to deal with the flow of emotions she felt when she moved with her family to Orlando. She was in eighth grade.
Her family decided to relocate from Carolina, Puerto Rico, in search of better health care for Hernández’s grandfather, who was dealing with cancer.
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“He was getting treatment in Puerto Rico, but it was not enough. We moved to Orlando so he could go to the Mayo Clinic. We had to drive to get there, but it wasn’t that far. The move was supposed to be temporary, but we got used to being here and decided to stay,” Hernández tells The Americano.
The now-activist and her family love Puerto Rico and living on the island, but they realized their grandfather would have better healthcare in Florida.
“My grandfather wouldn’t be here—he’s still alive—if we hadn’t moved here.”
As a teenager, Hernández focused on her passion for theater in adapting to her new life. She was struggling with getting used to a new culture, a new language, and the way people interact with each other.
“Everything was completely different than what I had lived in Puerto Rico. I found comfort when I became involved in the arts and theater. This helped me find a community, spread my wings a little bit, and get to know everyone,” Hernández remembers.
Her passion for the theater continued throughout the years, but as a Puerto Rican, she started to experience and witness firsthand the injustices and disadvantages faced by Hispanic communities in the United States.
Hernández realized she could help from a different standpoint.
“I noticed so much injustice around me. I felt like I had more to learn and offer within the political sphere of activism than I did through the theater. And while theater can be political, I just felt like I could do way more outside of it,” explains the activist.
Hernández engages with many social causes but dedicates her work to two areas that are closest to her interests.
“I thought about how I could use my personal identity and story to improve policy, to basically echo the issues we need to address,” the activist says.
One cause close to her heart is reproductive rights, which she advocates within the Scholars Strategy Network, where she works as a reproductive health and rights associate.
“I look at my personal story of growing up without information about sexual health or my reproductive system…learning by trial and error, which is not the best way to learn about this stuff. I also noticed that my reproductive system was under attack, and I wanted to use my voice in defense.”
Her other interest as an activist is for Puerto Rico to be treated fairly. Hernández has family members who live on the island, so she’s aware of the social and financial crises that have affected her homeland for the past decade. The situation has been worsening since Hurrican María severely damaged the island in 2017, followed by a recent surge of earthquakes.
“Seeing so many people affected, especially after Hurricane María, was one of the things that put me into action. It’s a part of my identity, so I don’t want to continue ignoring what is going on in Puerto Rico, just because I’m here in Orlando. What happens there directly affects me,” says Hernández.
The activist thinks politicians on the island and in the U.S. have to work hard to achieve motivation and trust among Puerto Ricans. She thinks boricuas are extremely disappointed by corruption and the situations they’ve had to live through.
Hernández has seen her family’s disillusion firsthand. When they lived in Puerto Rico, they supported the pro-statehood Progressive New Party (PNP), but no longer, given the lack of assistance from the U.S. in times of need.
“Within both Republicans and Democrats, I don’t really see a message for Puerto Ricans that addresses their problems and concretely states solutions. No one says ‘these are the actions we’ll take to solve the problems,’ ” Hernández says.