The Hernandez Tunnel in the Near Northside neighborhood now features an image of its namesake.
The Greater Northside Management District and UP Art Studio, in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, are unveiling a mural this weekend that honors late Judge Alfred J. Hernandez, who grew up in the neighborhood and was the first Hispanic person elected as a judge in Harris County. An unveiling ceremony is scheduled for 10-11 a.m. Saturday at 500 N. Main St. between Daly Place and Naylor Street.
The mural, which was painted by Guatemalan-born Houston artist Gelson Danilo Lemus, appears on each side of the south entrance to the tunnel. It features a portrait of Hernandez as well as plumeria flowers, which were his favorite.
“We are pleased to unveil this new mural that helps tell the story of our Greater Northside history,” Rebecca Reyna, executive director of the Greater Northside Management District, said in a news release. “It elevates the Hernandez Tunnel as a welcoming gateway for all who come to explore and celebrate our neighborhood."
The vision for the mural began in 2015, when the Greater Northside Management District, with guidance from the Houston Arts Alliance and Houston Housing and Community Development Department, hosted meetings with community members and stakeholders as well as the Hernandez family to discuss a tribute for him. The tunnel was rehabilitated by the city in 2019, with funding from the Texas General Land Office.
The mural was funded by the Greater Northside Management District and Hardy Yards Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) 21. UP Art Studio managed the project.
Hernandez, who died in 2010 at age 93, was born in Mexico to migrant farm workers, moved to Houston as a 4-year-old and earned his citizenship by serving the United States in World War II, according to his obituary in the Houston Chronicle. Hernandez later became a lawyer, judge and civil rights leader, serving three terms as president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
“My sister and I are indebted to those who instigated the plan to improve the appearance of the Judge Alfred J. Hernandez Tunnel,” said Hernandez's son, Dr. Alfred J. Hernandez Jr. “The tunnel was named in honor of our father in 1997 through the efforts of individuals in the Hispanic leadership at that time, including City Councilman Felix Fraga. The tunnel has been converted into a beautiful landmark that honors our father and his contributions to the betterment of the Hispanic community and creates a notable gateway to the Near Northside.”