A promotional poster for Gabriel Romaguera talks about the Pop Culture Conference.

With the First Ever Pop Culture Conference in Puerto Rico just around the corner, we’ve decided to interview Gabriel Romaguera, an English Department alumni who is helping organize the event and has been kind enough to give us some information on what event is all about.

Q: First things first, tell us about yourself.
A: My name is Gabriel Romaguera, I’m an alumni from the English Department with a BA in Literature and MAEE, both from Colegio. I’m currently writing my dissertation to complete my PhD from the University of Rhode Island. I’m also working as conference chair alongside the English Department and the Pop Culture Student Association for the Pop Culture Conference to be held on March 13th and 14th of 2015.

Q: What is this Pop Culture Conference you speak of?
A: Many people think pop culture conference and immediately imagine Comic Con. However, we are working more on the academic level of conferences. In the States, there’s the Popular Culture and American Studies Association. They have regional and national conferences every year. I have participated and presented papers at several of these conferences and we think its time for Puerto Rico to be able to join in on that academic conversation.

Q: You mentioned it being on an “academic level of conferences”, but how does this appeal to the general public?
A: First and foremost, it won’t just be professors talking about their research. There’s graduate and undergrads invited to share their scholarly ambitions by presenting in panels that have been preselected. So, it’s not just going to be esoteric ruminations on niche fields, it’s people talking about their passions regarding pop culture through a more scholarly lens. Every one out there is a fanboy or fangirl of something, and we want to put it out there that part of that involves being able to analyze it critically and look at some of the deeper elements.

Q: Do you think that this conference would help the public achieve that?
A: I think that, even on the non-academic level, there is still a great disparity between high culture and pop culture (some might even call it low culture). For instance, Shakespeare is high up there but R.R. Martin is entertaining, and that’s it. However, when we see pop culture through an academic format, we see that there are many aspects that are worthy of the public’s study and appreciation.
We have panels on so many different themes that I’m sure there’s something that already appeals to just about anyone. For example, there’s a panel on music called “Rocking through the World”. You hear about songs you love and some you’ve never even heard of before. But now you get some of the history and the context and it really opens your eyes to what’s out there. A lot of times we look at pop culture and don’t take the time to see all the nuances and I’m sure that this conference will help people get a new perspective on that.

Q: What’s so important about pop culture and why should people care about it?
A: Well, pop culture is a constant and is all around us. It’s not just television shows, movies, comic books, and video games. It’s about how what we see and enjoy can be read actively to understand more of its layers of meaning. Once you, as a reader, have that awareness to analyze critically, you can find so many things. Not simply saying, “Oh, this is good”; rather, saying why this is good and why this appeals to me and my peers.

Q: What’ll take place at the conference in terms of activies, presenters, guests, etc?
A: We are going to be hosting around 50 different presentations divided into several panels by scholars from Colegio and UPR Rio Piedras, as well as independent scholars from other universities. The Popular Culture Student Association will also host various presentations, activities and workshops that cater more to the general public.
However, the biggest highlight of the conference is our keynote speaker, Bruno Irizarry. He will be giving a talk about the creative process which fits perfectly well with the conference’s theme: From Imagination to Creation: How Popular Culture Redefines and Restructures Our Reality. Bruno is an award winning actor, writer, director, and producer and we are very fortunate that he accepted our invitation to be the keynote speaker. You might know him best for his film 200 Cartas about a comic book writer exploring Puerto Rico for his supposed true love. Actually, I’m pretty sure that Bruno might autograph your copy of the DVD if you ask nicely.
In addition, we are also collaborating with the Mayawest Anime and Comic Expo, which will be more like a mini Comic-Con experience. That event will take place on March 15th, at Coliseo Mangual. The registration fee for the Pop Culture Conference includes your ticket to that event.

Q: What’s the registration fee?
A: We have early bird registration until February 20th; which means students and guests pay an entrance fee of $10. Anything after February 20th would be $15, including on-site registration. You can pay cash, check, or money order at Chardon 323 during regular business hours.

Q: We know the conference will take place on the 13th and 14th, but what exactly will the time and place be?
A: The schedule is still in development, but I can tell you that all of our panels will be held in classrooms in the Celis or Chardon buildings. Some activities will take place in the Anfiteatro Figueroa Chapel as well.

Q: Any closing statements?
A: All in all this is going to be one of the nerdiest, geekiest, and coolest weekends that are ever going to happen and I want as many people as possible to be a part of it. You hear about these conferences and comic book style conventions happening elsewhere on the island, especially in San Juan, so to be able to have this event take place in Mayaguez and in Colegio means so much to me and to all the different organizers.