The tragic saga of Aaron Hernandez – who went from an NFL star with a $40 million contract to convicted murderer – is the subject of a gripping new Netflix documentary series. It attempts to answer the key question of: Why?
The series has some people wondering more about Hernandez’s background. Namely, what was Hernandez’s nationality? Obviously, he was American-born. However, as to ethnicity, his parents were of Puerto Rican and Italian heritage. Aaron’s dad, Dennis Hernandez, was of Puerto Rican heritage, and it was his mother, Terri Valentine Hernandez, who is Italian, according to MassLive. Aaron’s dad is deceased, but his mom is still alive. He was born in Bristol, Connecticut.
Hernandez’s downfall was almost Shakespearean; the once promising athlete and 4th round draft pick with a $40 million contract was eventually convicted of murdering the boyfriend of his fiancee’s sister, a man named Odin Lloyd. He was also accused of a string of other violent acts. After his death, brain analysis showed he’d suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It was the most serious case of CTE in someone his age that the researchers had ever seen. In 2017, Hernandez committed suicide in his Massachusetts prison cell, hanging himself.
Here’s what you need to know about Aaron Hernandez’s nationality/ethnicity:
On His Father’s Side, Aaron Hernandez’s Grandparents Were From Puerto Rico
According to USA Today, Aaron was 16 years old when Dennis Hernandez died at age 49 in 2006 after a routine hernia surgery. “It was more like a shock. Everyone was close to my father, but I was the closest,” Hernandez says. “I was with him more than my friends. When that happened, who do I talk to, who do I hang with? It was tough.”
However, a Boston Globe profile on Hernandez’s childhood described his father as abusive. “Aaron and his older brother were often beaten and brutalized by their dad. Aaron didn’t cry at his father’s funeral, and people took note. He kept it all inside,” the Globe reported.
According to Dennis’s obituary, “Dennis Hernandez, 49, husband of Terri (Valentine) Hernandez of Bristol, passed away on Friday, (January 6, 2006) at Bristol Hospital. Mr. Hernandez was born on February 9, 1956 in Bristol, a son of the late Bienvenido and Josephine (Garcia) Hernandez. Dennis was employed at Bristol Eastern High School and took great pleasure in watching his sons play sports and attending their games.”
The obit continued, “In addition to his wife, he is survived by his two sons, Dennis ‘DJ’ Hernandez and Aaron Hernandez both of Bristol; his brother and sister-in-law Vito and Denora Hernandez of Bristol, his twin brother and sister-in-law David and Lisa Hernandez of Bristol; his sister and brother-in-law Ruth and Andre Valderrama of Bristol; his nieces Kizzy and Emily Hernandez; Davina and Krystal Hernandez and Tanya and Jennifer Valderrama.”
In 2009, Aaron was playing for the University of Florida. His part Puerto Rican heritage earned him the nickname “Chico.”
“We call him Chico,” then offensive guard Mike Pouncey, told USA Today, which said that Hernandez’s paternal grandparents were from Puerto Rico. “He’s the only Puerto Rican on the team. When you call him Aaron, he doesn’t really respond. We got a new equipment manager and started calling him Chico, too, and Hernandez got kind of jealous. He said, ‘I thought I was the only Chico.'” According to Buzzfeed, this was a reference “to the ’70s sitcom Chico and the Man, about a jokey, self-effacing Chicano and his crotchety, benignly bigoted boss.”
According to BuzzfeedNews, Aaron didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. According to the Boston Globe, which wrote the seminal profile on Hernandez’s childhood, Dennis was known as the “King” and worked as a janitor. Aaron never recovered from his father’s sudden, untimely death.
Terri and Dennis had a second son named Jonathan. To the Globe, he detailed severe beatings that he and Aaron received at the hands of their father. “I picked up the phone once to call, to seek help,” the brother said to the Globe, revealing the family abuse for the first time. “And his response was, ‘Call them.’ And he handed me the phone, and he said, ‘I’m going to beat you even harder, you and your brother, and they’re going to have to pull me off of you when they knock down the door.’”
Aaron’s Mom, Terri, Is Italian-American & Worked as a Bookie & Secretary
As for his mother, Terri Hernandez is Italian-American in heritage. Over the years, she has worked as a an administrative secretary at the South Side School in Bristol.
Terri had also been a Bristol High School graduate. Her mother’s obituary says she was the daughter of Edith and John Valentine of Bristol. Edith died in 2019. Her obit says, “She was predeceased by: her husband John Valentine; her son Robert Valentine; her grandson Aaron Hernandez; and her sons-in-law, Dennis Hernandez and Jeff Tye. She is survived by: her children, Terri Hernandez (Jeff Cummings) of Farmington, Lynn Laffin (Pat) of Poughkeepsie, NY and Patrick Valentine (Nicole) of West Hartford; her close friend Grace Doner; her grandson Dennis Hernandez (Karen); and her great grandchildren, Parker Hernandez, Landon Hernandez, Avielle Hernandez and Anthony Baeh.”
According to The Globe, when Aaron was growing up, the Hernandez parents had a tumultuous marriage. They married in 1986, divorced five years later, got married again five years after that. They filed for bankruptcy in 1999.
Both parents were arrested, according to The Globe; Dennis on a cocaine buying accusation, and Terri for accusations that she was part of an “underground sports gambling bookie operation, out of the family home.”
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