Enrique Fernandez, a national ‘authority on Hispanic culture,’ dead at 75

Enrique Fernandez — a former features writer and editor at the Miami Herald — died in hospice Saturday. He was 75.

Dubbed a “trailblazer” among national Latin cultural critics, Hernandez, who died of prostate cancer, led a varied and distinguished career spanning decades in the writing business.

Born on Nov. 22, 1943, in Havana, Cuba, Fernandez immigrated to the Tampa area before the revolution in the late 1950s. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in 1964. After that, he earned his masters in Spanish language and literature and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Indiana University Bloomington in 1976.

The Cuban-American journalist worked as a film editor at The Village Voice in New York and a columnist at the New York Daily News. He was also Billboard Magazine’s Latin Music Editor, and at one point the Executive Director of the Latin Recording Academy as well as an editor at the now-defunct Mas Magazine.

He also wrote for the Sun Sentinel and most recently freelanced for several publications internationally, in addition to the Miami Herald.

His former brother-in-law, Jose de Cordoba, called him an ”authority on Hispanic culture.”

“Enrique was a key cultural translator who using his encyclopedic knowledge of music, food, literature and popular culture, made visible and human the nationalities making up the Hispanic community in the U.S. to what in my day was called Anglo culture,” de Cordoba said in an email to the Herald.

Fernandez’s other former brother-in-law echoed the same sentiments.

“He was purely eclectic,” said Pedro de Cordoba, noting that Fernandez used to write liner notes for top musicians like Celia Cruz and Los Bam Band.

“He was just a leading chronicler of the Latino experience in the United States. He had this unique ability, this amazing gift, of being able to explain things to the world in a beautiful and brilliant way. ”

Fernandez’ son, Andy Fernandez, broke the news on Facebook.

“I think he would have preferred to write his final post. This will have to do, My father, Enrique Fernandez passed away tonight. I’m sure there will be more information to come but for now, rest in peace dad,” he wrote.

Nat Chediak, founder of the Miami Film Festival and longtime friend, chimed in shortly after.

After listing Fernandez’ busy resume, Chediak made sure to note that there was much more to Fernandez than his gift of storytelling.

“That’s for the record,” he said, referring to his long list of accolades. “For me, he was a sage advisor, comrade-in-arms, and the best possible company with whom to share a chilled martini or a fine Cuban cigar. Safe travels, Tigre. I will miss you forever.”

Fernandez is survived by his sister Sheila Fernandez of Wewahitchka; his son Andy Fernandez of Oregon; Alex Fernandez of Miami; son Diego Fernandez de Cordoba of Miami and Margarita Fernandez de Cordoba of Miami.

A celebration of life service is expected to be held for Saturday, Jan. 5, in Wewahitchka.