“Mes De La Herenica Negra” opens conversation to discuss identity, intersectionality


Photo from @ionaolas on instragram

Dr. Teresa Delgado, members of OLAS and Senator Nathalia Fernandez respectively at Mes De La Herencia Negra.

Jocelyn Arroyo-Ariza, News Editor

 The Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), the Criminal Justice Department and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging sponsored the second part of “Mes De La Herenica Negra” at the Endzone on March 3.   

As one of the final Black History events, the program was a panel featuring two accomplished Latina women – Senator Nathalia Fernandez and Dr. Teresa Delgado. The newly elected senator of New York’s 34th Senate District, representing New Rochelle, Pelham and the East Bronx, Senator Fernandez is a daughter of immigrants with Cuban and Colombian descendent. She currently serves as the Chair of the Alcoholism and Substance Use Disorders Committee. One of the first things Senator Fernandez accomplished was changing the name of the committee from Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Dr. Delgado, who was a Religious Studies professor at Iona from 2005 to 2022, just recently became the Dean of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (St. John’s University). Dr. Delgado was OLAS’s facility adviser from 2005 to 2012 when it was known as HOLA.  Interestingly, she used to host club meetings in her home because students could only meet in the afternoon, and she had young kids at the time.  

The panel took place at noon as students waited eagerly as Afro-Latino music played. Stickers were given out that celebrated Hispanic culture such as a traditional Mexican treat Paleta Payaso. Refreshments were also offered, which were perfect for a quick lunch for Gaels as they talked about their heritage.   

Gabby Rodriguez, president of OLAS, opened the panel and introduced the guests.  

“OLAS was created in 1999 and we are still here,” Rodriguez said. “Our main goal is to foster appreciation for the richness and beauty of Latin American culture, as well as to create a space for people to learn about us. The club meets biweekly on Thursdays in McSpedon Rm 121”.  

Dr. Delagado was first to speak, recounting how she is still a Gael at heart and was grateful to be invited back to Iona, while it was Senator Fernandez’s first-time on campus, who heard many great things about the university.   

Before the Q&A, there was a mini presentation by OLAS that listed helpful resources for students to learn about Afro Latinos and their contributions including the University of Nevada’s Afro-Latino Resources, The Universitia of Puerto Rico’s Carribean Studies Department, the Center of Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (CUNY) and the Afro-Latino Forum.  

Many of the questions centered on identity and how it impacts our experiences and, most importantly, how being perceived as a person of color influences how one is treated. Both women talked about their experiences as Latina women encountering microaggressions and being hesitant to speak up for themselves. The audience contributed to the conversation by adding their own experiences. Intersectionality was also another important topic that was brought up. Dr. Delgado talked about the importance of recognizing the diversity of the Latino community. She mentioned how a particular image of Latinos is broadcast to America. For women, it is namely a woman who is hypersexual and white like Shakira and Sofia Vergara. Senator Fernandez, who did not identify as Afro-Latina is glad she discovered the term and embraces the identity.  

The event concluded with a round of applause for Dr. Delgado and Senator Fernandez. Gaels were delighted to learn more about the Afro Latino community and were excited to do further research. Many hoped for events like “Mes De La Herenica Negra” to be hosted at Iona in the future.