Remembering the Life-Saving Lupe Hernandez, Hand Sanitizer Inventor

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Read more

Hand sanitizer has become one of the most useful tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But did you know a Latina student nurse is behind its invention?

Due to the fact that the spread of the novel coronavirus is caused by human contact, keeping our hands clean has become a priority and the gel-based hand sanitizer remains the most practical way to carry around a disinfectant that can be used at any moment. Its sudden rise in popularity led folks to dig into its origin.

In comes an unearthed article from The Guardian, published on March 13, 2012. The story traces the history of hand sanitizer and how it’s affected our lives at a global level. It gained traction on social media and the name “Lupe Hernandez” began to trend. 

For those who are unfamiliar, the story goes a little like this: In 1966, Lupe Hernandez, a student nurse from Bakersfield, CA, was concerned about the availability of water and soap for medical professionals to use before coming in contact with patients. She realized that a solution might be to carry alcohol in gel form. She quickly learned that the idea could also become a commercial success. Hernandez called an invention hotline she came across on television to patent the idea. The rest—as they say—is history.

However, there are very few pieces of information on Hernandez and there’s also little backing to the story. The Guardian article doesn’t cite sources on Lupe Hernández and there isn’t prior reporting on her nor her contributions. In fact, it’s unknown if she’s still alive today. Having said that, Hernandez is mentioned in The Growth and Development of Nurse Leaders, Second Edition published in 2019—a book about professional nursing and leadership. Unsurprisingly, this is yet another case of a Latinx being written out of history, and it’s refreshing to see her get a bit of recognition, albeit late.

Over 50 years later, Lupe Hernandez is still saving lives against threatening diseases and protecting brave medical professionals.