#ChingonaFest: The Backstory

Photo by Pauline Campos

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 (and one you most certainly do not repeat in polite company or within earshot of your tios because Aye, Dios, y'all ), but it’s a word author Sandra Cisneros made a case for  in HBO’s Latino List, and one 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.But this little chingona of mine isn't going to be the bitchy, self-centered, jerky kind, if I have anything to do with it. Instead, my goal is to raise m'ija to be the kind of hell-raiser that radiates sass, self-confidence, independence, and doesn't take sh*t from anybody...but in a totally 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.I want my daughter 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.So far, I'm pretty certain The Husband and I are on the right track. She's seven and has been proudly mismatching her entire wardrobe since she was two, perfected the side-eye around kindergarten, and has no qualms about telling you what exactly she has on her mind. I don't have solid numbers, but I imagine it's not an every day occurrence for field trip-tears and a mommy/daughter heart-to-heart to result in mami writing her Latina Magazine #Dimelo advice column about the exchange. The odds are probably a lot smaller that said column would result in the  creation of a community and podcast encouraging women to find and embrace the unique power of our voices while encouraging the next generation to do the same.

Through the #chingonafest hashtag and twitter, instagram, and Facebook accounts, I share sassy sayings (They say Chingona like it's a bad thing...) and empowering life-lessons with like-minded Latinas. The #ChingonaFest Fridays feature on Aspiring Mama is your primer to the Latina bad-asses leading and inspiring with their own brand of special -- and lemme tell ya -- there's nothing quite as liberating as finding your tribe and knowing you're not the only one dropping well-placed F-bombs into random conversation while bucking those pesky cultural norms. I'm on week 25 of the weekly feature and am proud of having featured inspiring Latinas such as BlogHer's Elisa Camahort Page and Lori Luna, #365feministselfie founder Veronica Arreola, and Latina Lifestyle Blogger Collective and national conference founder Ana-Lydia Ochoa-Monaco. (To submit nominees for future #ChingonaFest Fridays -- and tossing your own hat in the ring is always encouraged -- just tag me on instagram or Twitter with the hashtag, or simply email me at chingonafest@gmail.com.) And the #ChingonaFest Project Podcast picks up where the Friday blog feature leaves off with plenty more Spanglish sass and interviews with Interesting People, Actual Conversation with fellow #Chingonas, and Interesting Content Very Probably Not Suitable for Sunday Dinners con la Familia.

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. If you are the kind of woman who takes BITCH as a compliment, welcome to the party.