“Are you a fan of Lord of the Rings?” Thomas Delfi asks. “I’ve actually been trying to focus less on European–based fantasy, and it’s partly because of this.” Delfi proceeds to explain that the tobacco pipe Gandalf the Grey smokes is made by the Hobbits. “Now here’s the problem,” Delfi proceeds matter–of–factly: “Tobacco was discovered and smoked in Latin America. It leaves out Latin Americans from one of the largest fantasy pop–culture novels of all time, while also taking away a bit from us.”
Delfi is the Executive Director of Nerdtino Expo, the first Lantinx Comic Book Convention on the East Coast. As a Latino with a deep appreciation for geek culture, the convention is close to his heart. Delfi grew up immersed in nerd culture, watching Hercules and the X–Files and reading comic books and Harry Potter. “I was raised by two people that would be at comic book conventions—some of the conventions I go to now, I would run into my parents there if they were my age,” he says.
Nerdtino, a combination of the words “nerd” and “Latino,” originally began in 2016 as a social media community, before eventually making the leap into becoming a convention in 2017. The third annual Nerdtino Expo took place on Saturday, Nov. 2, and followed the traditional model of a comic book and anime convention to promote the history and presence of Latin Americans in pop culture.
In terms of interactive events like Nerdtino which bring the community together, “there was nothing for the massive population of Latinos on the East Coast." Delfi says. "There was nothing that went beyond traditional comic book media.” Additionally, he explains that “there was a whole movement of diversity–focused comic book conventions across the United States that had been brewing up for many communities, but there hadn’t really been anything for Latin Americans." Nertino fills these two gaps as a convention on the East Coast directly catered to Latinx people.
Delfi created Nerdtino in order to provide, “a space for people who are Latino nerds and don’t necessarily feel comfortable or safe within a traditional comic book convention.” He also emphasizes the importance of the expo to demonstrate the rich presence of Latinx individuals in pop–culture.“I don’t see what we do as representation,” he explains, “you send a representative to something that you are not at. But latinos have been part of pop culture since the beginning.”
Delfi stresses that Nerdtino's purpose is not to just represent Latinx geeks, but instead to reflect their integral role in mainstream geek culture. He lists Latinx directors, voice artists, actors and actresses that have been integral in nerd culture, such as in the Marvel Universe.
The event featured over 30 different exhibitors, panels, a board game and lounge area, and special guests specializing in cosplay, voice acting, movie production, and more. As for the future of Nerdtino, Delfi reveals hopes to expand the expo to a two–day convention, communicate with other diversity–based geek communities, and the possibility of operating in multiple states. Stay tuned.