Jonathan Anselmo Hernandez was born in Providence in September 1984 to Maria and Felipe Hernandez. His parents were hard working immigrants to this country. Maria, from Dominican Republic, and Felipe, from Guatemala, worked hard to provide for their five children and for a better future. While pregnant with Jonathan, Maria worked in factories while managing four young children and attending night school to become a paralegal. Felipe worked long hours to support his family and to provide them with a great education. The children learned quickly about the value of hard work through the dedication and determination of both parents.
Jonathan grew up in the Silver Lake section of Providence and began attending school after the family moved to Cranston. Following the birth of her last child, Jonathan’s mother became ill. At the age of 11, Jonathan began taking on more responsibility at home to support the family. He cared for his younger brother and sisters, cooked dinner after school, and helped manage the household while continuing to be a high-achieving student in writing, science and the arts. His youngest brother affectionately called him “Papi” and their Father “Daddy” while growing up. Jonathan took on this responsibility not because anyone asked him, but because he felt it was the right thing to do for his family. And while he didn’t have a typical childhood growing up, he has no regrets and cherishes the values it instilled in him.
Jonathan is proud to be a product of RI’s public school system. His lifelong love of learning started early on and remains strong to this day. Jonathan attended several schools while growing up: Arlington Street School, Gladstone Street School, George J. Peters, Western Hills, and Cranston West High School.
Upon completion of high school, Jonathan attended the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, were he received his Bachelors of Science degree in Architecture. At UMD, Jonathan began his involvement in politics by marching against the Iraq War and supporting LGBTQ and Minority Rights both on campus and in Washington DC. In 2004, Jonathan worked with the Kerry campaign and with the nonprofit “Get Out the Vote” organization, America Votes. In November of 2004, Jonathan skipped school during midterms and went to Ohio with America Votes to canvas for Democratic values before and during Election Day. While education is very important to him, Jonathan felt that standing up for and promoting his principles during such a pivotal election were more important at the time than taking exams.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Jonathan attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned his Master’s degree in Architecture. There he focused his research on how the built environment affects social issues, social movements, and social justice. He also was an advocate for Sustainability and Sustainable Urbanism, which informs many of his positions today. Upon completing his Master’s degree in 2008, Jonathan returned to Rhode Island and entered the workforce just as the economy imploded after years of national Republican rule and trickledown economics. He was unemployed, or underemployed, like many of his contemporaries during the great recession.
When Jonathan says that he understands what working and middle class families are going through, it is because he has experienced these issues firsthand along with his family and friends. He could have left RI and gone to cities and states with better economies like so many other people his age have done, but he loves RI and wants to help rebuild and reform this great state of ours. That is why Jonathan wants to support families and small businesses, so that we can keep our homegrown talent and create wealth in RI, not wealth for out-of-state or multinational businesses. He believes that Rhode Islanders can rebuild Rhode Island.
Jonathan currently resides in the Mt Hope area of Providence. He is an animal lover and has a dog named Goten. He works at Providence Water in the Engineering Department and is a member of Local 1033.