(Guest post by Thomas E. Delfi)
Throughout the 20th century, Latin Americans have shaped diverse facets of American popular culture, with some of our greatest contributions being within fiction. Comic book writers like George Perez have brought us the Teen Titans. Filmmakers Guerillmo de Toro and George Romero have created masterpiece staples of horror. Actors like Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Luna, and Cesar Romero have brought heroes and villains to life. Meanwhile, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, and Executive Producer Victoria Alonso shape Marvel Entertainment. Authors like Junot Diaz are interpreting the immigrant experience through Oscar Wao’s love of Lord of the Rings while filmmaker Alex Rivera re-imagines a future much like our own, exploring the US conflict over illegal immigration through science fiction. Whether they are independent creators or established industry figures, Latin Americans have been a presence for decades and continue to excel in the realm of fiction.
But with all this in mind, when I first floated the idea of a Latinx Comic Book Convention, what would become the Nerdtino Expo, I was met with stares and shrugged shoulders. Few could name guests I could invite or even think of a large enough audience I could appeal to. But as I dug deeper and deeper since May of 2016, I discovered a treasure trove of fans and creators excited about the idea of such an event. So why was there such a disconnect? Why did so many people think there weren’t Latinx and Hispanic geeks?
Too often, Latin Americans and Hispanics face cultural erasure, either to our presence, history, or contributions. Recently, eminent actor, comedian, and performer John Leguizamo wrote an op-ed, “Too Bad You’re Latin,” highlighting the disparate and dismaying conditions of Latin American portrayal and perception in America. Our place in history has been relegated to the mid-20th century and upwards and the dominant narrative has been of Latinos being fresh off the boat immigrants, forever foreigners. This problem extends to popular media. Dr. Frances Negron Mutaner, a Puerto Rican filmmaker and scholar, tackled these issues in “the Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media.” In her research, Dr. Mutaner notes that while there has been progress, quote “To visualize the magnitude of Latino media exclusion, we can imagine that references to the states of New York (19.6 million), Florida (19.5 million), and Pennsylvania (12.7 million) are eliminated from American media culture.” This poor portrayal and erasure further affects Latin American fans at traditional comic book conventions or similar events, who often see little inclusive, diverse content and Latinx or Hispanic guests.
To combat this erasure and better promote the contributions and presence of Latinx and Hispanic creators and fans, Nerdtino Entertainment Studios LLC seeks to organize the Nerdtino Expo, the first dedicated East Coast Latinx Comic Book, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Pop Culture Convention. Utilizing the traditional model of comic book and anime conventions, the Nerdtino Expo will focus on celebrating the contributions of Latin American, Hispanic, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin, and Iberian creators, while also creating a space for fans to celebrate their heritage and for a general audience to explore our history. Nerdtino will include industry and independent professionals as guests, organize interactive panels, workshops, and activities for attendees, and encourage attendees to explore a diversity of creative outlets, from costume (Cosplay) and prop design to writing and art, and so on. The Nerdtino Expo will be launched in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in November of 2017. In our first year, we will operate as a One-Day event with a Four-Year plan to eventually expand to a full weekend event. Our event is not with precedent, with Sol-Con of Ohio and the Latino Comics Expo of California proving this type of event has an audience.
To support and expand this event, our team is reaching out to individuals and organizations in the Latin American community for support. We are currently in cooperation with the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, publications like Remezcla, local Philadelphia diversity oriented comic book shops and conventions, and more. In this respect, we wish to continue to build our partnerships in our pursuit of an Audience, Guests, Presenters, Vendors, Venues, Volunteers, Regional Partners, and Sponsors. Interested parties will receive a full Call To Action Report, detailing our development schedule, potential guests, and overall strategy and Four Year Plan (2017-2020). Should you wish to be involved in this program in any of the above capacities, please make contact with Executive Director Thomas E. Delfi at NerdtinoExpo@Gmail.com with the subject line ‘Attn: Nerdtino Expo CTA Response’.
There are 56 million Latin Americans in the United States. We are the largest ethnic demographic in the United States, just behind Anglo Americans and just above African Americans. We account for almost 50% of population growth in the last decade. Mexican, Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Latinx creators and fans of all walks reflect our presence in a diversity of capacities; from writers and artists at Marvel and DC to independent creators and publishers. Now more than ever it has been imperative for our greater community to come together and boldly present our presence and our history and send a clear message to Latin Americans and the greater American population; we are here, we have been here, and we have a story to tell. And the Nerdtino Expo can be an Origin Story like no other. But only with your help.
Thomas E. Delfi, Nerdtino Expo Founder & Exec. Director
Nerdtino Logo by Angel Ortiz @ Dusk Wing Art
Graphic Borders edited by Frederick Luis Aldama, Christopher Gonzales, Art by J. Gonzo
Sol-Con image by Not Your Friends Comics
Latino Comics Expo Co-founders Ricardo Padilla and Javier Hernandez
Miss Martian Cosplay by Tatiana Alves, image by Room In Frame Photography