As a first generation Mexican-American, I was raised to keep my thoughts to myself and put the feelings of La Familia over my own. Considering the emotional baggage I've been packing since childhood, I'd say that line of thinking didn't turn out so well.
I'm a mother now and my daughter is feisty and brilliant and wonderful. I want to raise her to be a Chingona -- the Mexican slang term for "bad ass bitch". It's a word steeped in history and controversy, but it's a word I've come to embrace. I want my daughter to grow up to be the kind of woman who respects herself and others, stands up for her ideals, and celebrates all that she is without feeling the need to apologize for it. Put in plain English, my end goal is for my girl to grow up to be the kind of woman the word "bitch" is used as a compliment to describe. A real chingona.
I want her to know she has a voice now and that what she says today matters so that tomorrow she won't think to look for validation outside of herself. I want her to feel and recognize her own value because it took me far too long to realize there are certain things we can only find within ourselves. I want for her to understand that the village is probably doing something wrong, even with her best intentions guiding our every choice. And I want her to know she can speak her mind, even if what she has to say goes against the culturally accepted norm.
Maybe my family is weird, but my granddather called us his chingonas the same way most people call their kids sweetheart. Or maybe he called us his cabronas. Right now, I've got both stuck in my had because they are so darned interchangable. Either way, chingona is a controversial Mexican slang term that means "badass chick."
Well, to me, at least.
The term can have more negative connotations (author Sandra Cisneros for one made a case for women embracing it in HBO’s Latino List); I look at it from the standpoint of the word bitch: you either are offended to be called one or strive to be one.
My goal is to raise m'ija to be the kind of hell-raiser that radiates sass, self-confidence, independence, and doesn't take shit from anybody...but in a respectful way. I want to raise a hell-raiser who is respectful of herself and others, yet stands up for herself and what matters no matter what anyone else thinks. Some would call her a chingona and if I raised her right, the future Eli's gonna smile when they do. I might just have to print out this blog post from my friend Deb for a visual reminder.
Of course, this line of thinking is not just meant to empower mothers of daughters. Hell, you don't have to be a mom to get in on this party, either. If you've got sons, you're raising the boys who will become the men who will love the women our daughters will become. Teach them and guide them on their path and show them why there's nothing better than a relationship in which both parties are equal partners.
No kids? No problem. You are an aunt, a prima, a friend, teacher, a sister. You are an inspiration and the motivation to work harder and do better and never give up. The next generation is looking to you just as they are looking to the rest of us. That makes you part of my village.
Join me tonight for my weekly #Chingonafest twitter party! We will be discussing ways to better ourselves and the kind of examples we can provide for the next generation. I'll have a few surprises to give out to random winners, so make make sure you let me know you're there! Raise your voices, ladies. It's time to let the world know we are here.