Updated: May 1, 2022
By Alisha Steindecker
Minerva Perez, a familiar face at the Organizacion Latino-Americana, is ready to get down to business as the organization’s first paid executive director, focusing on the arts, education and advocacy for the Latino community.Ms. Perez, a Sag Harbor resident, had previously served in 2008 as OLA’s volunteer executive director. She went on to work for six years as director of residential and transitional services at The Retreat in East Hampton, where she ran a 24-hour crisis shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. There was significant Latino involvement at the Retreat as well, she said.
“I left that organization and I was really looking for ways I could be integral and really help grow an organization,” said Ms. Perez, who is 49.
She had moved to the East End in 2002 from New York City, and she raised her now college-age daughter in Sag Harbor. She had studied theater at New York University.
OLA, as the Latino advocacy organization is commonly called, was formed in 2002 to help educate and empower immigrants on the East End, as well as help them to have a real presence in their communities.
“We have to raise discourse on what the Latinos and Spanish community represents,” Ms. Perez said. “It will be important for the Latino community to build cultural bridges, not only with other communities but even within itself. We have to lock our arms together and show that kind of unity without erasing what is so different between these different Latino communities.”
Ms. Perez will also focus finding office space for OLA, although it does have a post office box in Sagaponack.
OLA’s founder, Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon, who is also the organization’s president, said Ms. Perez is perfect for the job. “She is great—she is strong,” she said. “I know that there is a lot to be done in all advocacy, culturally. It is so much for the youth, for the women, for the family, and it has to be done by a serious organization and a serious person like Minerva.”
As executive director, Ms. Perez also will focus on educating the Latino community about immigration and worker safety. Back when she was volunteering with OLA in 2008, she also directed and produced the only Spanish language “Vagina Monologues” performance on the East End, which she said she hopes to do again, as well as to continue to expand the Latino film festival.
Previously, Ms. Sepulveda had been “trying to do everything” for OLA, she said. “I can see the future of OLA growing, becoming a more professional not-for-profit and going to a higher level,” she said.
“We cover everything for the Latino community, and she really cares—I mean, that to me is the most important thing” she said of Ms. Perez.