Maria Elena Hernandez; 2021 Top Latina Lider in Florida!

What is your Hispanic Heritage: Mexican

What area of Florida do you live in: Immokalee, Florida     

What is your profession: Executive Casino Host/ Latin Market

Meet Maria Elena and other Lideres at the Hispanic Heritage Celebration at 3rd Annual FORD Taste Of Latino Festival!

Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it?

Maria Elena: Currently I am the Executive Casino Host / Hispanic marketing for the Seminole Tribe. I ensure that in-house clientele are up to date and booked for all interested events as well as ensuring all accommodations are secured. I coordinate with Casino employees, guests, and the surrounding community to ensure communications and customer service are properly executed. I take the lead for the Tribe in promoting Latino events with businesses and partners such as local news outlets, Latino new paper, as well as local radio stations etc. 

While working with the Seminole Casino, I held a variety of positions that quickly moved me up the corporate ladder.  My previous experience in working with the community, especially the Latino community, and corporate sponsors and businesses to bridge the gap in the services available and community needs has made me very effective in servicing the Latino community now and into the future. 

Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition?

Maria Elena:  I was raised and immersed into a Latino community, my migrant family and I traveled to rural communities across the country, where we were sometimes viewed with suspicion and/or scorn. Through necessity we had to rely on each other for support (mental, physical, and financial) to succeed. This instilled a sense of community in me that serves me well today. It is this sense of community that drives my passion to help advance all Latino communities. My previous experience working with the Immokalee Multicultural Multipurpose Community Action Agency (IMM CAA) and Southwest Florida College gave me the tools to succeed in my current position.

Latin Times Magazine:  During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it?

Maria Elena: The fear of the virus froze me. The safety of my children and myself was tested as we all became infected. Luckily we all recovered and continue to be vigilant in our efforts to not be re-infected.  Of course during this time, I was furloughed as were so many across the country.  As a single mother, I am the primary wage earner for the family.  Only my son could provide any financial assistance as my daughter was too young to work.  Both he and I took any opportunity we could (jobs were scarce) to support the family while being extremely frugal.  Thankfully we weathered this storm and continue to look forward … safely.  

Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related)

Maria Elena: I am very proud of my efforts to advance the Latino community; however, my family is still my top priority.  Despite the challenges, I have raised two children with the same community commitment and dedication that I have.  I look to them to be among in the next generation of Latino leaders.  By setting the example, not just in word but in deed, I have given them the foundation on which they can build to further the Latino community and our country as a whole.

Latin Times Magazine:  What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you?

Maria Elena: I am always looking forward and welcome new opportunities. I would like to build on what I have done and expand the scope of my work.  Maybe someday to the national or international stage.

Latin Times Magazine:  What does being a U.S. Citizen mean to you?

Maria Elena: Despite coming from a family with very little education and modest means, my family has always encouraged us to reach higher.  As a result some of my family has been able to fulfill their dreams at the highest levels of their field. Being a U.S. Citizen definitely made this road much easier.  The advantages and opportunities that being a U.S. Citizen cannot be understated.  Although not impossible, citizenship opens doors that make success much more probable. 

Latin Times Magazine:  What is your opinion of the state of affairs in our nation?

Maria Elena: The lack of formal immigration policy leads to the negativity towards people trying to migrate into the U.S. for a better life.

Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer?

Maria Elena: It’s inevitable to face challenges. Embrace every experience, good or bad and welcome it! Listen to your heart speak. If it scares you then go for it and believe you can!

Latin Times Magazine:  What is YOUR comida Latina favorita?

Maria Elena: Mi comida favorita es el almuerso. Tortillas de harina y frijoles con chorizo.