Collage of Hispanic students


Students Reflect on Their Hispanic Heritage

September 29, 2022

Top Row: Yllka Valdez, Javier Torres, Antonio Perez; Bottom row: Roni Rocca, Natalia Chancafe, Cesar Hernandez

The Hispanic and Latinx community represents 17 percent of students in New York Tech’s diverse student body. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Office of Student Life, the Latinx Student Union, and DiGamma Omeda Xi hosted the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff event on September 22, celebrating Hispanic culture through food, drinks, music, and games.

In honor of the month-long celebration, New York Tech News asked students around the Long Island and New York City campuses what their heritage means to them.

Natalia Chancafe (B.F.A. ’24)
Communication and Media Production

Natalia Chancafe, a Peruvian student, is constantly reminded how important her culture is. “It is a massive part of my life, whether it is waking up on weekends to Spanish music while my family cleans or supporting a new Peruvian restaurant in my area. It also means being appreciative of my parents and family members for their sacrifices of moving their whole lives from Peru to the United States so my brother and I can have better opportunities,” she says.

Chancafe encourages other students to get involved with on-campus societies and events that embrace Hispanic heritage as it gives them a space to be proud of their background. “Not only can they relate to other Hispanic students, but they can even learn more about their culture,” she says.

Chancafe values the diversity of her hometown, Elizabeth, N.J. It offers “any type of Spanish food, including the best Peruvian cuisine. We have parades, events, and parties to celebrate our cultures, and you will always find someone you can relate to,” she adds.

Cesar Hernandez (B.S. ’22)
Health Sciences

Coming from a family that migrated from El Salvador to the United States, Cesar Hernandez says his heritage means “everything” to him. “From the food to dancing cumbia at parties and eating pupusas every weekend, it’s very big in my family,” he says. “We try to keep our culture going and teach the younger kids the traditions for different events.”

Antonio Perez (B.F.A. ’24)
Digital Art and Design

Columbian and Ecuadorian student Antonio Perez embraces himself and his culture. “My heritage means that I can be who I am and be proud of where I come from and those who have come before me,” he says. “Being involved is important on campus because you get to be a part of a community of people who share interests and hobbies with you. You get to find your people and make an impact in the community, which is very important.”

Ronie Rocca (B.S.’24)
Electrical and Computer Engineering

For Ronie Rocca, his Peruvian heritage embodies his sense of culture and identity in the world. “It represents who I am, what I represent, and my sense of belonging in the Hispanic community,” he says. As president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Rocca plans cultural events to promote Hispanic culture among New York Tech students, focusing on the diverse sets of people and customs within the Hispanic and Latinx cultures.

Rocca is also dedicated to promoting Hispanic representation in the STEM fields, noting how important it is to provide services, scholarships, and internships to encourage equal access and attention to aspiring students and workers.

Javier Torres (B.S. ’23)
Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology

Javier Torres, a Mexican American, feels that growing up Hispanic made him work harder for opportunities. “Learning English was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” says Torres, who can now speak it perfectly. Hispanic heritage means a lot to Torres, who notes how opportunities and limitations both define the culture. As vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, he has been able to meet many students from different cultures, establishing a deep connection and conversing in both Spanish and English. “My career is going to reflect the opportunities I have been given and the opportunities I have taken,” he says.

Yllka Valdez (B.S.’23)
Interdisciplinary Studies

Yllka Valdez is half Mexican and half Albanian, with only her immediate family living with her in the United States. “What my heritage means to me is keeping a sense of identity for myself,” she says. “Since we are pretty much here all alone [in the United States], I often try to reach out to people that are part of my own culture and to people of different cultures within the Hispanic community. I rejoice in every single part of it, and I embrace every single country within Latin America. For me it is keeping that sense of myself, being true to myself, and not forgetting my roots.”