He worked to pass both the Torricelli Bill in 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, both aimed at extending the embargo and closing any loopholes.
As the right-hand man to the late Jorge Mas Canosa, CANF's founder, Hernandez fervently preached to Cuban exiles and U.S. presidents that the best way to get rid of Fidel Castro was to maintain the pressure of the embargo launched by John F. Kennedy in 1962.
Fellow exile Bernardo Benes has long opposed the embargo.
In the late 1970s, Benes helped spark one of Miami's biggest political firestorms over the embargo when, as a member of the Committee of 75, he and other exiles traveled to Cuba to open dialogue with Castro -- code for ending the embargo.
``As far back as 1972, I realized that the embargo was a failure,'' said Benes, 74, of Miami Beach. ``There had to be a better way to deal with Cuba.''
Hernandez and Benes remain well-known bookends on the embargo -- but the world around them is changing.
Some believe that Barack Obama, who eased restrictions on travel to Cuba earlier this year, may be the president who knocks down that wall between the U.S. and the Caribbean island.
And even some exiles have come to see the embargo as ineffective.
``The embargo? What embargo?'' said Juan Clark, a Miami Dade College sociologist and Bay of Pigs veteran who has made it his life's work to track the arrival of Cubans to the United States. ``U.S. companies already send rice, chickens and now light poles to Cuba. The embargo is now a myth.''
Joe Cardona, 41, a local filmmaker and son of Cuban exiles, agrees.
``Unfortunately, the embargo has become a hot-button issue for Cuban Americans over the years, when in reality it's a non-issue. I mean, what embargo are we referring to? Castro can buy goods from the entire world yet he chooses to blame the lack of American goods for the absolute failure of his economy,'' he said.
For older exiles, a call to end the embargo is still considered heresy.
Eugenio Rothe, a Florida International University sociology professor who studies the exile experience, said many feel victimized by the Castro government.
``The embargo is the one thing exiles feel has punished Castro for kidnapping their country in a revolution that they feel cost them their way of life, their families and their future in their homeland,'' Rothe said.
The embargo, he added, provides ``one of the only weapons they have to fight back or feel that there is some sense of justice.''