TORCH PHOTO/ANGELICA ACEVEDO
As part of Latino Heritage Month, “Not Just Spicy and Sexy,” an educational discussion about the misrepresentation of Latinas and Afro-Latinas in the U.S., was presented by the Delta Kappa Chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. on Oct. 12.
“I spearheaded this event because this is something that has always bothered me. People think it’s a compliment to tell me, ‘Wow, you’re so beautiful, I love Spanish girls,’ but I’m not even Spanish, I’m Puerto Rican,” Nadine Rivera, the secretary of the sorority, said. “Even though I’m a Latina woman, I’m my own person too.”
About 15 students, who were mainly Latina and Afro-Latina women with the exception of two men, gathered in an intimate space in the D’Angelo Center.
Three members of the Delta Kappa Chapter, Maryann Rodas, Andrea Sifuentes and Nadine Rivera led the discussion.
They began by posing the question: What does it mean to be “spicy”?
To this, some of the students answered with variations of having high self-esteem, being confident, possessing an attitude and having a curvaceous body.
Then, the conversation deepened as the presenters spoke about the marginalizing term that has been used to describe Latina and Afro-Latina women in this country for decades.
One aspect of the event that caught many of the students’ attention was when the presenters informed them of the 1920s embargo on Hollywood movies due to the over-sexualized nature of the Latina characters.
Although they discussed the media’s indisputable role in perpetuating the stereotypical Latina — such as the maid and the friend with an attitude in the background — they also mentioned some of what they say is recent progress.
For instance, they spoke about Gina Rodriguez’s breakout role in the award-winning show “Jane the Virgin” and a comic book with a Latina super hero called “La Borinqueña” created in 2016 by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, a graphic novelist.
Andrea Sifuentes, the treasurer of the sorority, said she was surprised by how well the event went.
“A lot more people came than expected and I like that everyone participated,” Sifuentes said. “It’s something that needs to be talked about because I think it’s just been glossed over.”
Leading up to the event, the Delta Kappa Chapter organized a social media campaign on Instagram with the hashtag #NotJustSpicyandSexy.
This garnered over 40 posts on Instagram with students and alumni of St. John’s sharing their stories of dealing with the stereotypes frequently applied to Latina and Afro-Latinas.
“Being that it is Latin Heritage Month, we found that this was an important topic to bring to St. John’s, not only through our community but also through social media,” Maryann Rodas, president of the sorority said. “People that follow us on social media and sisters around the nation participated, bringing awareness to many others.”